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Claiming inception in 1291, Switzerland is a small, mountainous country, speaking four official national languages (French, German, Italian and Romansh) and soon reaching 8.5 million inhabitants. Switzerland is traditionally neutral and is known for its prosperity and stability. As a result, it is not a member of the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA), or NATO. Switzerland maintains a federal system with 26 cantons, the capital city is Berne and the major cities are generally recognised as Geneva (for the United Nations), Lausanne (with headquarters of various sports organisations and tribunals), Zurich (as the economic center and main banking hub) and Basel (for the chemical industry). Although small differences exist in Cantonal procedure, most codes are now unified at a federal (country-wide) level, including the Penal Code, and the admission to any Cantonal bar now grants access to the courts of the entire country. Modern day Switzerland generally traces its roots back to 1848, with the drafting of the Swiss Federal Constitution.

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

Switzerland is not only a signatory to the Convention Against Torture[1], it also prohibits "torture and any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" under its 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 inadmissible 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 within a "reasonable" amount of time.[9].


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


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  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<Ref>Swiss COnstitution, Art. 29(2)
  10. Swiss Constitution, Art. 10(1)
  11. Swiss Constitution, Art. 32(3)