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forced internment Report uncovers troubling chapter of Swiss social history

detention centre

Many people who were detained were forced to work and some were abused either physically or sexually.

(Staatsarchiv Kanton Freiburg)

The independent expert commission has released its final report on a troubling period of Swiss history, revealing that some 60,000 people were forcibly interned in nearly 650 institutions over the last century.

The commission calls for financial and emotional assistance for victims as well as public education as steps toward rehabilitation.

On Monday, the Independent Expert Commission on the practice of “administrative detention” released its final reportexternal link after four years of investigation.

Over several decades, more than 60,000 people were deprived of their liberty and put into prison-like facilities for disciplinary or reeducation purposes because their lifestyle did not correspond to authorities' expectations. Many were forced to work, while some were abused either physically or sexually.

In the report delivered to the Swiss government, the commission recommended financial assistance in the form of solidarity contributions to victims but said that this is only the beginning of the rehabilitation process. They also requested that the deadline for submitting applications for such contributions, originally set at March 2018, be waived.

Other recommendations that directly benefit victims include a lifetime membership for rail travel, tax exemptions for those in difficult conditions, a fund to cover uninsured medical expenses and rights to a lifetime pension.

In the long-term, the commission calls for the creation of a so-called “House of Switzerland” that supports exchange and consultation with victims and the wider public on this dark period in Swiss history.

Studying the past

Established by the government in 2014, the commission spent the last four years analysing thousands of archived documents and gathering the testimonies of thousands of survivors.

While the report covered more than seven decades, the commission notes that it is difficult to set exact dates as the cantons had different policies.

In March, the first of ten publications were released that included 60 concrete stories of people who underwent the practice of administrative detention; what they experienced, and how it affected their lives subsequently.

A similar commission was launched to investigate children who were forced into detention in the last century. In 2016, the Swiss parliament approved a CHF300 million ($308 million) financial compensation scheme for victims of a foster care system that included child labour, sexual abuse and forced sterilisations.


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