Switzerland has signed a European protocol relating to the transfer of convicted criminals. Under the treaty, foreigners who are sentenced in Switzerland will not be able to escape imprisonment by fleeing to their country of origin.
Jean-Claude Joseph, Swiss ambassador to the Council of Europe, signed the protocol at a short ceremony in Strasbourg.
The protocol means that people sentenced for a crime in one country can be imprisoned in their country of origin if they flee there to escape imprisonment. The treaty also paves the way for foreigners in Swiss prisons to be relocated to their home country to serve out the remainder of their sentence.
The new protocol, an addition to existing legislation relating to condemned prisoners, also allows signatory countries to deport criminals to their country of origin without their consent.
In a statement following the signing of the protocol, the Swiss justice ministry said the amendment to the law was designed to help criminals in the process of rehabilitation.
"A convicted criminal is more likely to be rehabilitated in an environment with which he is culturally familiar than in a foreign country," a spokesman for the ministry said.
The justice ministry estimates that the protocol, which has still to be ratified by the Swiss parliament, will also serve to reduce the number of foreign inmates in domestic prisons.
According to government statistics, up to 85 per cent of the inmates in some prisons are foreign detainees.
Adoption of the protocol also means Swiss citizens serving time overseas can at the discretion of the other country be transferred to Switzerland to complete the period of imprisonment.
Ten countries have already ratified the protocol, while Switzerland joins a further 15 which have signed it but not yet sought parliamentary approval.
swissinfo with agencies