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Youth violence goes on trial

One of the accused arrives for court in Yverdon-les-Bains Keystone

Two trials involving brutal attacks by young people have once again put the spotlight on youth violence in Switzerland.

This content was published on June 13, 2005 - 13:38

The two cases, a fatal stabbing in western Switzerland and a life-threatening assault on a man in the Swiss capital, Bern, caused a big outcry in the country two years ago.

The first of the two trials opened on Monday and concerns a knife attack on an 18-year-old youth at Yverdon-les-Bains railway station on June 1, 2003.

Two men, a 23-year-old Portuguese and a French-Algerian, aged 26, have been charged with murder. Two minors who were involved in the stabbing have already been sentenced.

The four attempted to rob the teenager of his CD-player, a fight broke out and the victim was stabbed with his own knife. He died a few days later in Lausanne University Hospital.

The attack caused an outcry, particularly in western Switzerland. Around 1,500 people attended a demonstration against youth violence in La-Chaux-de-Fonds.

The second case went before a court in Bern on Tuesday. Just one month before the Yverdon stabbing, a 42-year-old man was left for dead after being beaten unconscious in a city centre gang attack.

Four of the seven-member gang, who were all aged between 17 and 21 at the time of the attack, are going on trial.

Their victim, a lecturer, was in a coma for several weeks. He has made a recovery but has been unable to work since the beating. The attack prompted an anti-violence protest in the city.

Violent crime

There have been fears for some time in Switzerland that violent crime among young people is on the rise.

Official figures released in February appear to confirm this. They showed a rise in juvenile crime between 1999 and 2004, including a 40 per cent rise in violent crime.

But some experts believe the figures are misleading. According to youth psychologist Allan Guggenbühl, people today are far more likely to make formal complaints about violence than in the past.

He claimed it was simply a "romanticised" view to say there was less violent behaviour ten or twenty years ago.

"There has always been youth violence and it has always been everywhere," said Guggenbühl, who runs a conflict-management institute in Zurich.

The psychologist believes there are several reasons why young people become violent. One important factor is their upbringing, which tends to minimise the fact that there is a darker side to human beings.

He said it was important to help young people live with and manage this side of their personality. However, Guggenbühl noted that one of the biggest problems was that many young people were not aware of the consequences of their actions – for their victims and themselves.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

A French-Algerian and a Portuguese from the Cape Verde have been put on trial, accused of the murder of an 18-year-old youth on June 1,2003, at Yverdon-les-Bains.

Two minors who were also involved have already been sentenced by a youth court.

Four youths will go on trial in Bern on Tuesday accused of the attempted murder of a 42-year-old lecturer. The man was severely beaten and has not been able to work since the attack.

Three minors who took part in the attack have already been sentenced by a youth court.

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