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

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

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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