Court dismisses prisoners’ pleas of inhumane conditions

The extension of the prison in Brenaz last year has helped alleviate conditions to some extent Keystone

The Lausanne-based Federal Court has refused to consider the pleas of five prisoners who claimed they were subjected to inhumane conditions during detention. They wanted reduced sentences and financial compensation for their ordeal. 

This content was published on August 4, 2016 - 17:05 and agencies

In a decision published on Wednesday, Switzerland’s highest court decided that the prisoners at the Champ-Dollon prison in Geneva canton had not acted in good faith, as they had raised the issue of mistreatment only after they were handed their sentence. 

The prisoners, sentenced to up to four years in prison, wanted a reduction in sentence up to 660 days and compensation of up to CHF66,000 ($67,805) each for being placed in custody under “unlawful pre-trial conditions” for as long as 220 days. Complaints raised including lack of space (less than four square metres) and long periods behind bars without access to outdoor space. 

While handing down the verdict on July 18, the court added that it did not completely exclude granting a reduction in sentence or an early release under special conditions, even if the prisoner had already been sentenced. 

The Champ-Dollon prison has become notorious for overcrowding and was flagged up in Amnesty International’s 2015 report. The Federal Court has admitted pleas from inmates complaining of overcrowded conditions that did not meet European Convention on Human Rights guidelines. Two prisoners received a positive verdict in November 2015 and one in April this year, creating a precedent for such appeals. 

The canton of Geneva is working to prevent overcrowding in Champ-Dollon. Last November it inaugurated an extension of the prison in Brenaz and plans to have a new prison ready in Dardelles by 2019, reserved for prisoners serving out their sentences.

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