Comparative law and justice/Switzerland (later version)

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Scale of justice 2 new.jpeg Subject classification: this is a comparative law and justice resource.

Jlaythe 22:46, 7 February 2011 (UTC)

Basic Information[edit]

CARTE DRAPEAU SUISSE.svg

Capital City: Bern

Climate & Terrain: Switzerland is a landlocked country that shares a border with the following countries: France, Italy, Austria & Germany. The current climate is temperate, the temperature varies with altitude for the most part they get their mix of rain, snow & warm weather. There are 2 mountain ranges in Switzerland the Alps and the Jura. In addition they have rolling hills, plains and large lakes.

Languages: Switzerland has 4 official languages German (63.7%), French (20.4%), Italian (6.5%) and Romansch (0.5%). While those are the official languages they are not the only ones spoken. Serbo-Croatian 1.5%, Albanian 1.3%, Portuguese 1.2%, Spanish 1.1%, English 1%, Romansch (official) , other 2.8% (2000 census)

Area: 41,277 sq km

Land: 39,997 sq km
Water: 1,280 sq km

Population: 7,623,438 (July 2010 est.)

Age Range & Gender Breakdown: 0-14 years: 15.6% (male 616,561/female 571,610)

15-64 years: 68.1% (male 2,609,673/female 2,567,245)

65 years and over: 16.3% (male 514,761/female 724,617) (2010 est.)

Nationality: Swiss

Ethnic groups: German 65%, French 18%, Italian 10%, Romansch 1%, other 6%

Religions: Roman Catholic 41.8%, Protestant 35.3%, Muslim 4.3%, Orthodox 1.8%, other Christian 0.4%, other 1%, unspecified 4.3%, none 11.1% (2000 census)


Geographic coordinates: 47 00 N, 8 00 E [1]

Brief History[edit]

Switzerland declared its independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1499. However, the Swiss Confederation was founded on August 1st, 1291. Their most recent constitution from 1874 replaced the confederation and created a centralized federal government. Despite being right in the middle (geographically) of both world wars Switzerland was able to stay out of both conflicts. It wasn't until 2002 that Switzerland became a member of the United Nations[2]

Economic Development, Health, and Education[edit]

The GDP for Switzerland in 2010 is estimated at $522.4 billion, while the GDP per capita is $42,900. The country has a very low unemployment rate of 3.9%. Having such a high GDP per capita & low unemployment rate requires the Swiss to have a variety of jobs and jobs that are profitable so it is no surprise that industry there includes: machinery, chemicals, watches, textiles, precision instruments, tourism, banking, and insurance.

The CIA World Factbook lists the following as their major imports & exports Imports: machinery, chemicals, vehicles, metals; agricultural products, textiles Exports: machinery, chemicals, metals, watches, agricultural products

The literacy rate in Switzerland is 99% for both male and females. Also, males are expected to go to school for 16 years while females are only expected to go to school for 15 years.

There are 4.12 infant deaths for every 1,000 live births. Life expectancy is very high with males expected to live 78.14 years and females even higher at 83.95 years. [3]

Governance[edit]

Switzerland has a constitution which is largely based of that of the United States. It leaves cantons (states) largely autonomous including criminal justice[4].

Here is a link to view the constitution electronically. http://www.admin.ch/ch/e/rs/c101.html

Elections[edit]

Like the United States, the voting age for all adults in Switzerland is 18. Any citizen is able to participate in the elections [5].

•The President is appointed by the Federal Parliament to serve a 1-year term. The current president as of 2011 is Micheline Calmy-Rey, she is the second female to serve as president and this is also her second term (2007). •In the Council of States, 46 members are to serve 4-year terms*. In the National Council 200 members are elected by popular vote. These seats are distributed proportional to the population of the canton.

  • Two representatives are elected from each of the 20 cantons and one is elected from each of the six half-cantons, according to cantonal procedure. [6].

"Electors in multi-member constituencies choose among lists of candidates. Two or more lists may form an electoral alliance, and two or more lists within an alliance may form an electoral sub-alliance. Political parties often present multiple, allied lists representing male and female sections, youth and senior citizen wings, or geographical areas within a canton; electors vote for as many candidates as there are seats to be filled. Electors may select a single list, and in this manner vote for every candidate on the list, but they may also drop a candidate from the list, and either put another candidate from the same list a second time, thus casting an additional vote for that candidate (a procedure known as cumulation), or write in the name of a candidate from another list (a practice known in French as panachage); in fact, electors may even compose their own lists by combining candidates from different lists. Meanwhile, electors in single-seat cantons cast a vote for only one candidate [7]."

Judicial Review[edit]

There is judicial review of legislative acts except when they are from federal decrees[8].

Courts and Criminal Law[edit]

Punishment[edit]

Prison Statistics: Prison Population: 6,181 Percentage that are women: 5.6% Percentage that are foreign: 71.6% Minors: .6%[9]

The death penalty in Switzerland was abolished in 1942 but there have been recent efforts by the people of the country to bring it back[10].


The penalty for murder is at least 5 years in prison or as they saying being deprived of liberty. Rape carries with it a sentence of 1 to 10 years. However if there is cruelty involved there is a minimum sentence of 3 years. The penalty for assault for according to the Swiss Penal Code is just a fine with the exception of a few special circumstances. High Treason warrants at least a one year jail sentence[11].


Corporal Punishment in Switzerland is prohibited in schools, as a form of punishment and as discipline in the penal system. However, corporal punishment in the home is legal [12]

Juveniles and Justice

Like in America much of the criminal justice system varies slightly by canton (State). They view juveniles as 7 to 18 years old. But it was said that this was likely to change to 10 years old when a new law is passed[13].

Law Enforcement[edit]

Each of the 26 cantons in Switzerland are responsible for having their own police force. They are responsible for every aspect of the force from recruiting, training, equipping, arming, and uniforming their force. Also, there are more than 100 cities and towns that have their own police force. The responsibilities of these departments including maintaining law and order.

Since the cantons are responsible for their own police force it has resulted in a unique situation where there are several different organization styles. Including

"The German-speaking cantons divide their police forces into three main areas: criminal, security and traffic police."


"The French-speaking cantons, however, divide their forces into two sectors: the “gendarmerie“ and “sûreté“. The “gendarmerie“ is equivalent to the security police in the German-speaking cantons, and usually also includes the traffic police. The „sûreté“, on the other hand, is equivalent to the criminal police."


"The Italian-speaking canton Ticino has its own system and divides its forces into geographical sectors."

"Finally, Canton Basel-Stadt deserves special mention, because in this canton the public prosecutor’s office is in charge of the criminal police, and the police commando unit is in charge of the force that carries out search operations."

The Federal Office of Police is responsible for maintaining and protecting national security. In addition they also provide information, coordination and analysis to assist the cantons. Though it should be noted that there is NO federal police force in Switzerland[14].

Information from the CIA World Factbook says that the Manpower of available for military service in Switzerland is males: 1,828,043 females: 1,786,552. It also states that between the ages of 19-26 citizens must serve complusory service for males only, and voluntary service for both males and females is 18 years. It is required that every Swiss male serve at least 260 days in the armed forces; "conscripts receive 18 weeks of mandatory training, followed by seven 3-week intermittent recalls for training during the next 10 years[15]."

Crime Rates and Public Opinion[edit]

Switzerland falls under the same family of law that most of Europe falls under: civil law [16]. "Switzerland had in the course of its legal history been under the influence of French, German, and Austrian-Hungarian criminal legislation. After having long been a cantonal matter,the substantial criminal law was unified in 1937. The criminal code, which entered into effect in 1942, has been a fairly independent codification, innovating upon and melting various concepts from neighboring countries." Their system is aimed at finding the truth rather than formal issues[17].

According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) it appears that Switzerland has a very low use of drugs compared to other countries. They report the following percentage of the population using each of these drugs ranging in age from 15-64:

Opiates: .61%

Cocaine: .80%

Cannabis: 9.7%

Amphetamines: .6%

Ecasty: .3%

In 2007 only 7,400 people were being treated for drug problems in Switzerland[18].

According to data from the International Crime Victim Surveys(ICVS) and government sources the UNODC & Tilberg University put together a report that included results from many countries including Switzerland. Here are the crime rates they provide[19]:

Burglary: 1.6% (middle of countries providing data) Recently this rate has been on the rise

Car Theft: .6% (low among countries providing data)

Theft of Personal Property (includes pick-pocketing): 5.9% This is 3rd highest among nations reporting

Robbery: .8% middle of

Sexual Assault on Women: .9% makes them 7th among countries reporting.

Consumer Fraud: 7.3%

Corruption: .5% towards the top


63% of Crime is reported to police in Switzerland making them near the top in terms of reported crime[20].

72% of people report that they are satisfied with the police which is second among countries reporting data[21].

26% of people think that a burglary is likely or very likely in the coming year[22].

In 2004/2005 69% of the population thought that the police were doing a good job or a very good job. A number which has climbed from 50% in 1989.[23]

The homicide rate in 1999 for Switzerland was between .009 and .010 per 1,000 capita. There were 76 reported Homicides. While the reported rapes per 1,000 capita was about .23 Conviction rate for homicide in '99 was .01 per 1000 capita. The average sentence for murder was 100 months and the average served time was only 60 months. [24]

Rights[edit]

According to the Swiss Constitution there are several rights that are guaranteed to its citizens, many are similar to those of citizens of the United States. Including equality, liberty,the protection of human dignity,equality before the law, no discrimination based upon race, religion, sex, ethnicity, etc. Everyone has the right to be treated by state authorities in good faith and a non-arbitrary manor. Citizens have the right to life and personal freedom. There is special protection for children and their integrity. Everyone has the right to assistance when it is needed in order to have a decent standard of living. The right to marry and have a family. Freedom of religion and conscience. Freedom of expression, information and media. Censorship is prohibited. Children have the right to primary school education. Citizens have the right to artistic expression and academic freedom. Freedom of assembly and association[25]. For full rights guaranteed in the constitution please follow this link. http://www.admin.ch/ch/e/rs/1/101.en.pdf

Family Law[edit]

According to the United States Office or Personnel Management Investigations Services just because you are born in Switzerland you are not guaranteed citizenship. If you are born outside of the country you must register by the age of 22 or you will not be considered a Swiss citizen [26].

Marriage[edit]

According to the Swiss Federal Office of Foreign Affairs getting married there is much more complicated and costly than it is in the United States. According to the Website swissworld.org there has been a downward trend in the number of people getting married, one main reason is that it is possible for the parents to have joint parental rights making without getting married. Since 2007 same-sex unions in Switzerland have been recognized and couples share the same benefits as marriage[27] .


Divorce[edit]

If both parties can come to an agreement the court will hear from them together and separately then after to months if the both still wish to be divorced the divorce will be granted. Consequences of divorce include “The couple is separated in terms of the law of matrimonial property, i.e. their assets are distributed in accordance with the system of marital property. Decisions are made about maintenance payments (alimony for children and for spouses). Decisions are made about custody and visiting rights for the couple's children” The divorce agreement includes “children's needs, parental rights and duties such as custody, visiting rights, child maintenance agreements based on property law between the spouses, such as divisions in terms of the law of matrimonial property and post-marital maintenance [28].”

Adoption[edit]

To adopt a child several requirements must be met. These include child’s consent, the age of both the parents and child, and a period of time for assessing the adoption. In addition those wishing to adopt must meet certain requirements. These include: couples must be married for at least five years or be over the age of 35, you may adopt your spouse’s child if you have been married for more than five years, single parents may also adopt a child. The authority to approve an adoption after one year is with the “cantonal authority of the adoptive parent's domicile [29].”

Inheritance[edit]

According to Swiss law statutory heirs are descendants, parental heirs and spouses. If there is not a will or inheritance contract in place the following is what they follow.

“The surviving spouse gets: a) half of the estate if there are descendants of the deceased, or b) three quarters of the estate if there are no descendants but parental heirs, or c) if there are no parental heirs either, the full estate. Children always inherit in equal shares [30].“

What is interesting about these laws is that a man or woman cannot do everything that they want with their will or inheritance contract. By law their parents, children, spouses are entitled to a portion of the estate. Also, and assets and liabilities are taken on by the heirs at the moment of death [31].

Human Rights[edit]

As far as racism and discrimination go, the 2010 Amnesty International Report says that there have been issues with political decisions that infringe upon some Human Rights. For example a law was passed banning the construction of minarets, which was discrimination against Muslims. They also so that migrant children cannot easily access education and a report by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance said that there is a lack of places for traveling populations to set-up leading to hostile situations with locals when they set-up in their areas. In addition they call for harsher penalties for crimes committed against minorities. The report says that there is ill treatment by police against asylum seekers in the country. They applaud Switzerland for a new law against Violence and Trafficking of Women and Girls but say that there still needs to be support programs for victims. What is shocking from the report is that politicians voted AGAINST religious freedom[32].


The State Departments report for 2010 confirms much of what is said in the Amnesty International Report. They say that there was discrimination against Muslims, anti-Semitic incidents, violence against women, trafficking in persons, and discrimination against minorities. The report says that there were many cases were suspects were held for over 50 days before trial. The law says that except in extreme situations suspects must be brought before a prosecutor and judge within 24 hours of detainment [33].

Works Cited[edit]

  1. "CIA - The World Factbook." Welcome to the CIA Web Site — Central Intelligence Agency. Feb. 2011. Web. 11 Feb. 2011. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sz.html>.
  2. "CIA - The World Factbook." Welcome to the CIA Web Site — Central Intelligence Agency. Feb. 2011. Web. 11 Feb. 2011. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sz.html>.
  3. "CIA - The World Factbook." Welcome to the CIA Web Site — Central Intelligence Agency. Feb. 2011. Web. 11 Feb. 2011. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sz.html>.
  4. www.opj.usdoj.gov/bjs/
  5. "Election Resources on the Internet: Federal Elections in Switzerland - Elections to the Nationalrat." Election Resources on the Internet / Recursos Electorales En La Internet. 6 Aug. 2010. Web. Mar. 2011. <http://electionresources.org/ch/>.
  6. "Election Profile." Election Guide. Democracy Assistance & Elections News from the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening, 21 Feb. 2006. Web. Feb. 2011. <http://www.electionguide.org/election.php?ID=1140>.
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  10. Death Penalty Initiative Launched in Switzerland. - Swissinfo." Swissinfo - Swiss News and Information Platform about Switzerland, Business, Culture, Sport, Weather. SwissInfo.Ch, 24 Aug. 2010. Web. Mar. 2011. <http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/news_digest/Death_penalty_initiative_launched_in_Switzerland.html?cid=26355138>.
  11. RS 311.0 Livre 2 Dispositions Spéciales (Code Pénal Suisse)." Admin.ch - Startseite. The Federal Authorities of the Swiss Confederation, 1 Jan. 2011. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. <http://www.admin.ch/ch/f/rs/311_0/index2.html>.
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  16. "Alphabetical Index of the Political Entities and Corresponding Legal Systems." JuriGlobe-World Legal Systems. University of Ottawa. Web. Mar. 2010. <http://www.juriglobe.ca/eng/sys-juri/index-alpha.php#SWITZERLAND>.
  17. Tonry, Michael. "Cross-National Studies In Crime and Justice." Bureau of Justice Statistics. Ed. David P. Farrington and Patrick A. Langan. U.S. Department of Justice, Sept. 2004. Web. Mar. 2010. <http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/cnscj.pdf>.
  18. "World Drug Report 2010." United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. United Nations, 2010. Web. Mar. 2011. <http://www.unodc.org/documents/wdr/WDR_2010/World_Drug_Report_2010_lo-res.pdf>.
  19. Van Dijk, Jan, and John Van Kesteren. "Criminal Victimisation in International Perspective." Rechten.uvt.nl. Ed. Paul Smit. Tilberg University, 2007. Web. Feb.-Mar. 2011. <http://rechten.uvt.nl/icvs/pdffiles/ICVS2004_05.pdf>.
  20. Van Dijk, Jan, and John Van Kesteren. "Criminal Victimisation in International Perspective." Rechten.uvt.nl. Ed. Paul Smit. Tilberg University, 2007. Web. Feb.-Mar. 2011. <http://rechten.uvt.nl/icvs/pdffiles/ICVS2004_05.pdf>.
  21. Van Dijk, Jan, and John Van Kesteren. "Criminal Victimisation in International Perspective." Rechten.uvt.nl. Ed. Paul Smit. Tilberg University, 2007. Web. Feb.-Mar. 2011. <http://rechten.uvt.nl/icvs/pdffiles/ICVS2004_05.pdf>.
  22. Van Dijk, Jan, and John Van Kesteren. "Criminal Victimisation in International Perspective." Rechten.uvt.nl. Ed. Paul Smit. Tilberg University, 2007. Web. Feb.-Mar. 2011. <http://rechten.uvt.nl/icvs/pdffiles/ICVS2004_05.pdf>.
  23. Van Dijk, Jan, and John Van Kesteren. "Criminal Victimisation in International Perspective." Rechten.uvt.nl. Ed. Paul Smit. Tilberg University, 2007. Web. Feb.-Mar. 2011. <http://rechten.uvt.nl/icvs/pdffiles/ICVS2004_05.pdf>.
  24. Tonry, Michael. "Cross-National Studies In Crime and Justice." Bureau of Justice Statistics. Ed. David P. Farrington and Patrick A. Langan. U.S. Department of Justice, Sept. 2004. Web. Mar. 2010. <http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/cnscj.pdf>.
  25. "Swiss Legislation." Admin.ch - Startseite. Federal Authorties of the Swiss Confederation. Web. 02 May 2011. <http://www.admin.ch/ch/e/rs/c101.html>
  26. "Binational - Separation and Divorce." Binational.ch . July 2008. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. <http://www.binational.ch/en/fragen/trennung.html>.
  27. "Marriage / Domestic Partnership in Switzerland." Eda.admin.ch. Federal Department Of Foreign Affairs, 21 Feb. 2011. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. <http://www.eda.admin.ch/eda/en/home/reps/nameri/vusa/ref_livfor/livusa/marria.html>.
  28. "Marriage / Domestic Partnership in Switzerland." Eda.admin.ch. Federal Department Of Foreign Affairs, 21 Feb. 2011. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. <http://www.eda.admin.ch/eda/en/home/reps/nameri/vusa/ref_livfor/livusa/marria.html>.
  29. "Www.ch.ch - Welcome to the Swiss Portal of the Federal Government, the Cantons and the Communes - Adoption: Information." Ch.ch - Schweizer Portal Von Bund, Kantonen Und Gemeinden - Privatpersonen. Federal Chancellery. Web. 27 Apr. 2011. <http://www.ch.ch/private/00029/00036/00338/00339/index.html?lang=en>.
  30. Wills & Inheritance Law in Switzerland - AngloINFO Geneva, in the Geneva Region (Switzerland)." AngloINFO Geneva: Living in and Moving to the Geneva Region, Switzerland. GHR Rechtsanwälte AG. Web. 28 Apr. 2011. <http://geneva.angloinfo.com/countries/switzerland/wills.asp>.
  31. Wills & Inheritance Law in Switzerland - AngloINFO Geneva, in the Geneva Region (Switzerland)." AngloINFO Geneva: Living in and Moving to the Geneva Region, Switzerland. GHR Rechtsanwälte AG. Web. 28 Apr. 2011. <http://geneva.angloinfo.com/countries/switzerland/wills.asp>.
  32. "Switzerland - Amnesty International Report 2010 | Amnesty International." Amnesty International | Working to Protect Human Rights. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. <http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/switzerland/report-2010>.
  33. "2010 Human Rights Report: Switzerland." U.S. Department of State. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 11 Apr. 2011. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. <http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/eur/154454.htm>.