Capital punishment in Switzerland

Capital punishment in Switzerland
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Capital punishment is forbidden in Switzerland by article 10, paragraph 1 of the Swiss Federal Constitution. It was abolished from federal criminal law in 1942, but remained available in military criminal law until 1992.


Use until 1937

In modern times, the common method for execution was the decapitation with the sword. In 1835, the guillotine was added, although many cantons allowed the person to be executed to choose between these two methods. The last person to be executed with a sword was Niklaus Emmenegger in Lucerne on July 6, 1867. In 1848, the death penalty for political crimes was forbidden by the constitution. In 1874, it was then generally abolished. However, because of an increase in crime (which was probably due to the economic depression at the time) capital punishment was re-introduced in 1879.


On December 21, 1937, in the course of the standardisation of Swiss criminal law, Swiss parliament passed a new criminal code, which abolished capital punishment, after fervent debates. It was ratified by referendum on July 3, 1938, and came into force on January 1, 1942. The last person to be sentenced to death by a civil court and executed was Hans Vollenweider, convicted of three murders and then executed on October 18, 1940 in Sarnen, Obwalden.

Swiss military law, however, still provided for the death penalty for treason. During World War II, 30 Swiss soldiers were sentenced to death and 17 of these were executed before the end of the war. This law was abolished by the Federal Assembly on March 20, 1992 after a parliamentary initiative by Massimo Pini of the Free Democratic Party of Switzerland. The 1999 Swiss Federal Constitution then banned the death penalty at the constitutional level.

Re-introduction initiatives

Two initiatives have so far been launched to amend the Constitution to provide for the reintroduction of capital punishment. The first, in 1985, would have made drug dealing punishable by death. It did not manage to collect the required 100,000 signatures for a binding national referendum.[1]

In August 2010, family members of a murder victim launched another constitutional amendment initiative to provide for capital punishment in cases of murder combined with sexual violence.[1] The initiative quickly found itself at the center of public attention and was roundly rejected by political leaders; it was withdrawn a day after its official publication.[2]

External links



This article incorporates information from the revision as of October 21, 2006 of the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.

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