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Swiss police under fire for ‘arbitrarily’ targeting foreigners in canton of Aargau

Aargau police accused foreign nationals travelling through Switzerland of committing crimes, a report shows.

Swiss police under fire for 'arbitrarily' targeting foreigners in canton of Aargau
Police officers in Aargau were heavy-handed weith foreign motorists. Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

Police in the northern Swiss canton of Aargau reportedly acted outside the law by targeting foreigners passing through the canton, especially motorists from Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

In an article entitled “Wild West in Aargau”, Switzerland’s SonntagsZeitung newspaper reports that in recent years cantonal police acted on a service order to stop and detain foreigners suspected of being “criminal tourists”, even though no legal basis to do so existed.

Experts who examined the police order in question said it “reads like a license for arbitrary arrests”, the newspaper reports.

It stipulated that “suspicious persons who are not domiciled in Switzerland are to be placed in a police station”, SonntagsZeitung wrote.

The order was directed only towards non-resident foreigners, not foreigners residing in Switzerland.

Under normal circumstances, people who are arrested should be told what the allegations against them are.

But “according to the files of the investigated cases, these regulations were often not complied with. In other words, the police violated the rights of the arrested foreigners”, the newspaper reported.

One such cited case involved a screwdriver found in a car with an Eastern European license plate, which prompted police officers to accuse occupants of burglary.

Since the discovery of these practices, the Aargau police department “has been made aware of the issue of ‘racial profiling’ and employees receive regular training”, experts told the newspaper.

“The order states that identity checks are not permitted solely on the basis of externally recognisable features of a certain ethnic group or nationality”, it added.

Additionally, conditions under which a person who has been stopped may be brought to the police station have been regulated more clearly.

READ MORE: How do the Swiss really feel about foreigners?

Aargau, which sits between the cantons of Zurich, Basel City and Germany, is Switzerland’s fourth-largest canton by population. 

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Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

A Frenchwoman and a Spaniard were killed and nine other mountaineers were injured on Friday in an ice fall in southwest Switzerland, police said following a rescue attempt involving several helicopters.

Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

Police received calls at 6.20 am reporting that mountaineers had been caught up in falling seracs — columns of glacial ice formed by crevasses — on the Grand Combin, a glacial massif near the Italian border in the Wallis region.

Seven helicopters with mountain rescue experts flew to the scene, finding 17 mountaineers split among several groups.

“Two people died at the scene of the accident,” Wallis police said in a statement. They were a 40-year-old Frenchwoman and a 65-year-old man from Spain.

Nine mountaineers were airlifted to hospitals in nearby Sion and in Lausanne. Two of them are seriously injured, police said.

Other mountaineers were evacuated by helicopter.

The regional public prosecutor has opened an investigation “to determine the circumstances of this event”, the police said.

The serac fall happened at an altitude of 3,400 metres in the Plateau de Dejeuner section along the Voie du Gardien ascent route.

The Grand Combin massif has three summits above 4,000 metres, the highest of which is the Combin de Grafeneire at 4,314 metres.

The police issued a note of caution about setting off on such high-altitude expeditions.

“When the zero-degree-Celsius isotherm is around 4,000 metres above sea level, it is better to be extra careful or not attempt the route if in doubt,” Wallis police said.

“The golden rule is to find out beforehand from the mountain guides about the chosen route and its current feasibility.”