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Crime victims to have aid cut

Two girls pay their respects at the memorial for the victims of the 2001 Zug shootings

(Keystone)

Swiss citizens who are the victims of an attack or crime while abroad will no longer be eligible for aid under Swiss law, the government announced on Wednesday.

Victims of such offences within Switzerland could have part of their compensation capped, said Justice Minister Christoph Blocher.

The measures are part of amendments being made to the 1993 law on assistance to victims of criminal offences. They will have to be approved by parliament before they can enter into force.

Announcing the results of the legal review process at a media conference in the capital, Bern, Blocher said that the cantons – which currently bear the costs of the law – fully supported the move.

Current legislation gives aid to victims of physical, moral or sexual injury within and outside Switzerland. It covers counselling, victims' rights, as well as compensation for financial or moral damage.

Blocher, a member of the rightwing Swiss People's Party, said that under the revision compensation for financial and moral damage for an offence committed outside Switzerland would be stopped.

The minister said it was often difficult to establish whether such offences had really taken place.

Personal responsibility

He added that somebody on holiday in Asia could not expect his or her canton to compensate a crime committed there, saying it was a case of personal responsibility.

However, victims and their relatives would still be eligible for counselling, he said. These people must be domiciled in Switzerland. This issue had first come to the fore after the tourist attack in Luxor in Egypt in 1997, in which 36 Swiss died.

In terms of domestic cover, a ceiling would be placed on the compensation paid out for moral damage – SFr70,000 ($53,300) for victims and SFr35,000 for relatives.

This is because at present there is no limit on this form of compensation and the amounts awarded often end up being more than those for financial damage, said Blocher.

In 2003 the cantons paid out a total of SFr3.2 million for financial damage, but SFr7.2 million for moral damage under the law.

Under the revised legislation, the limit for financial damages would be raised from SFr100,000 to SFr120,000.

No new measures are envisaged under the law for victims of domestic violence and for human rights abuses. But a special rule is to be added for young victims of abuse, who will be able to file claims until they are 25 years old. Other claimants will have five years.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The law on the assistance to victims of criminal offences came into force on January 1, 1993.
In 1998 11,165 people used counselling services for crime victims.
By 2003 this had risen to 23,948.
73.7% of these cases involved women.
In 2003, 164 cases of financial damages were paid out - a total of SFr3.2 million.
631 cases of moral damages were paid out - a total of SFr7.2 million.

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