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Police brutality under fire in Amnesty report

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(Keystone)

Switzerland's human rights record has come under fire in Amnesty International's annual report. The treatment of suspects detained by police came in for the heaviest criticism.

The report says some of the restraining measures used by police on foreigners in particular have been cruel and dangerous. It focused on the practices of using tape to gag detainees, and forcing suspects to wear a type of motorcycle-helmet, which is strapped around the suspect's jaw by tape.

Amnesty highlighted reports from the first half of 1999 on the use of these practices, which obstruct breathing.

Amnesty's annual report also focuses on the case of Khlaed Abu Zarifeh, a Palestinian deportee, who died in March 1999, after being gagged and strapped into a wheelchair. He was being forcibly removed from Zurich-Kloten airport.

Amnesty condemns the use of force to detain suspects or deport foreigners, including the use of tape and shackles, and in particular practices which restrict the suspect's breathing. "Such methods are equally used against people who show no sign of physical resistance," a spokesman said.

The human rights organisation says that despite repeated requests, it still has not received any copies of relevant guidelines from the Zurich cantonal police on the use of such measures.

However, the canton's authorities say tape is no longer used in detention, and that a new type of helmet is used, which does not cover the suspect's face. It added that deportees facing forcible expulsion undergo a medical examination.

The federal police office said it was not in a position to repond to Amnesty's annual report, saying it was a cantonal matter.

Amnesty's report also found that not all cantons guaranteed the fundamental human right of a detainee to immediately consult a lawyer.

However, Amnesty said it was satisfied with the treatment of the former Rwandan government official, Fulgence Niyonteze. Niyonteze was convicted by a Swiss military court in March 1999 for crimes in connection with the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Amnesty welcomed the precedent of a Swiss court handling such a case, which previously was dealt with either by the Rwandan judiciary or the International War Crimes Tribunal for Rwanda. However, it criticised the fact that the anonymity of witnesses was not sufficently protected during the trial.

swissinfo with agencies

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