Army probes sexual attack on recruit

The Swiss Army has launched an investigation following reports that a soldier attempted to rape another recruit at the Thun training base in the canton of Bern.

Army probes sexual attack on recruit
Photo: Federal Defence Department

The sexual attack reportedly took place in a shower room in the barracks in front of witnesses last Thursday night.

The victim, a kitchen soldier in his mid-20s, suffered scratches and bruises all over his body, the Blick newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The alleged attacker, a man in his early 30s,  was arrested and questioned on Friday before being released.
“We have opened proceedings on suspicion of sexual assault,” army spokesman Tobias Kühne told Blick.

“The intensity of the attack is now clarified.”

A Thun training base commander Hans-Ulrich Haldimann appeared to be shaken by the incident.

“There has been nothing like this here ever,” Captain Haldimann told Blick.

“The exact reasons are still unclear,” he said.

“The alleged perpetrator was probably severely intoxicated on Thursday,” Haldimann said.

“We have sent him home”

The suspect’s basic training was set to end on Saturday.

The victim, meanwhile, is continuing his training.

“I have spoken to him personally about the incident,” Haldimann said.

“He told me he wanted to continue his service.”

The last time sexual impropriety in the Swiss Army hit the headlines was in 2008 when Roland Nef was forced to step down as head of the country’s armed forces over allegations of sexual harassment made by a former girlfriend.

Nef left after only seven months in the job.

The case with the girlfriend was settled out of court.

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Do naturalised Swiss citizens have to do military service?

Once foreigners become citizens of Switzerland they get new benefits as well as responsibilities. Military service is one of the latter but does everyone have to do it?

Do naturalised Swiss citizens have to do military service?
Once you become Swiss, military service becomes obligatory. Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

Many foreigners wonder why Switzerland, which hasn’t fought a war in modern times, needs an army in the first place.

But military presence is ubiquitous in Switzerland, stretching far beyond the practical Swiss army knives.

All able-bodied Swiss men from the age of 18 until 30 are required to serve in the armed forces or in its alternative, the civilian service. Military service for women is voluntary and those who choose to do so will be pleased to know they can wear new, comfortable underwear designed just for them.

READ MORE: Women in Swiss military no longer forced to wear men’s underwear

Once you become a Swiss citizen and are between the ages of 18 and 30, you can expect to be conscripted. This was an experience of one of our readers, Dr. Robert Schinagl from the USA, who said that since he became naturalised “the military has been attempting to recruit me for national service”.

READ MORE: ‘A feeling of belonging’: What it’s like to become Swiss

What if you are a dual national?

In general, having another citizenship in addition to the Swiss one is not going to exempt you from military service in Switzerland.

However, there is one exception: the obligation to serve will be waved, provided you can show that you have fulfilled your military duties in your other home country.

If you are a Swiss (naturalised or not) who lives abroad, you are not required to serve in the military in Switzerland, though you can voluntarily enlist. 

But wait, there’s more

In case you have to serve but for some reason can’t, you’re not off the hook.

If the army won’t get you, taxes will.

If you are unfit for service, or if you fall under the category of dual citizens who served in foreign armed forces (as mentioned above), you will have to pay the so-called Military Service Exemption Tax.

You must pay it from the age 19 until you turn 37 — provided, of course, that you become Swiss during this time.

This annual tax amounts to 3 percent of your taxable income, or a minimum of 400 francs.

What if you perform the Civil Defence service instead of the military?

Introduced in 1996, this is an alternative to the army, originally intended for those who objected to military service on moral grounds. Service is longer there than in the army, from the age of 20 to 40

Civil service has, however, proven its mettle during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, when  around 4,000 civilian volunteers were supporting the emergency services and hospitals.

If you are part of civil defence service, you are entitled to a deduction from the annual military service exemption tax. For every day you worked for civil defence, you can deduct this tax by 4 percent.

This website (in German, French and Italian) explains how to apply for Civil Service.

Does serving as Vatican Papal Guard disqualify you from the military service?

Nice try, but no.

They are not soldiers but part of the Vatican City police force.