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UN expert gives Swiss officials more time to improve prisoner’s detention

portrait of Brian K
Brian "K" (portrait shown here) has a diagnosed hyperactivity disorder and has been in and out of prison for assault since he was a child. Keystone / Linda Graedel

UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer on Friday postponed a planned visit to Brian “K”, Switzerland’s most famous prisoner, after the government promised to improve his conditions.

“I welcome the decision of the Swiss authorities to end Brian K’s prolonged solitary confinement, which has lasted for more than three years,” said the expertExternal link.

Following UN protests, Switzerland announced that Brian K would be transferred “in the coming days” from Pöschwies high security prison in canton Zurich to a different facility, with a view to improving his detention conditions.

Melzer said he had decided to postpone his visit to give the authorities time to implement this decision and conduct investigations ordered by the Federal Court into allegations of torture and ill-treatment. “My visit has not been cancelled, but merely postponed and can be carried out whenever deemed necessary,” he said. 

Brian K, a 26-year-old Swiss citizen, has been held in solitary confinement in Pöschwies prison since August 2018, with extremely limited activities and social contacts, according to the UN press release.   

Brian K’s conditions over the years have gained media attention and UN experts have written to the Swiss government twice to protest his conditions, saying they violate the UN Convention against Torture. In JuneExternal link, Melzer also said that such a long period of detention “goes far beyond the maximum of 15 days permitted by the Nelson Mandela RulesExternal link”, otherwise known as the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

Brian K., who has a diagnosed hyperactivity disorder, is serving a sentence of four years and nine months for attempted grievous bodily harm to prison staff during a previous stint, a charge he denies. He “has been arrested numerous times since he was 11, but has been deprived of the kind of treatment his medical condition warrants” and has been traumatised by his treatment, according to Melzer.


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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR