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Switzerland is a small, mountainous country with approximately nine million inhabitants. Switzerland is traditionally neutral. As a result, it is not a members of the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA), the United Nations (UN), or NATO. Switzerland maintains a federal system with 26 cantons. Criminal law varies from canton to canton and lawyers must receive license from each canton in which they wish to practice. The capital is Berne.

Type of System

Sources of Defendants' Rights

Defendants' rights may be found in traditional sources such as the Swiss Constitution, the Swiss Criminal Procedure Code and the Swiss Penal Code. Switzerland is a neutral body and has not signed all UN treaties and International Law Instruments.

Defendants' Rights

Although Switzerland is not a signatory to the Convention Against Torture[1] "Torture and any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" are prohibited under the Constitution[2]

Under the Constitution, Switzerland offers the accused the "right to free legal advice and assistance unless their case appears to have no prospect of success"[3]. The accused may also be permitted free legal representation in court.[4]. This right has been interpreted broadly as extending to non-criminal cases.


The Swiss Constitution provides the right to notice of charges in a language the accused can understand when defendants are detained by police[5].Under Article 158 of the Swiss Code of Criminal Procedure the results of an interrogation are in admissible unless the defendant has been given a warning similar to the Miranda warning that is used in the United States:

  • he/she is the subject of a criminal investigation for some specific infractions,
  • he/she has the right to remain silent and to not cooperate with police,
  • he/she has the right to legal representation by a private or state-funded attorney, and
  • he/she has the right to request the services of an interpreter.[6]

Defendants may also have the right to notify a next-of-kin of their detention.[7]


The accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty[8] and cases must be finished with a "reasonable" amount of time.[9]. The defendant has the right to a jury in serious cases such as murder.


Capital punishment was abolished in 1942.[10]. After conviction, the defendant has the right to mandatory review by a higher court.[11]

See Criminal Justice Systems Around the World


  • 2010 Prison Population: 6,181


  1. See CAT signatures here.
  2. Swiss Constitution, Art. 10(3)
  3. Swiss Constitution, Art. 29(3)
  4. Swiss Constitution, Art. 29(3)
  5. Swiss Constitution, Art. 31(2)
  6. Swiss Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 158
  7. Swiss Constitution, Art. 31(2))
  8. Swiss Constitution, Art.32
  9. Swiss Constitution, Art.29(1). Both parties have the right to be heard in court

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