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Switzerland: UN expert postpones visit to Brian K. after positive steps by authorities

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GENEVA (14 January 2022) - The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, today postponed his detention visit to Brian K. following the announcement by the Swiss authorities that he would be transferred “in the coming days” from Pöschwies high security prison to a different facility with a view to improving his conditions of detention.

“I welcome the decision of the Swiss authorities to end Brian K’s prolonged solitary confinement, which has lasted for more than three years,” said the expert.

The 26-year-old has been held in solitary confinement in Pöschwies prison since August 2018, with extremely limited activities and social contacts.

The official announcement of transfer by the Directorate of Justice and Home Affairs of the Canton of Zurich came in the wake of mounting criticism over Brian K’s treatment and conditions of detention.

Following repeated expressions of concern by UN experts, including two official letters sent to the Swiss Government on 9 June and 3 September 2021, the National Commission for the Prevention of Torture (NKVF) recommended that the authorities seek “alternatives” to Brian K’s solitary confinement. Shortly thereafter, the Swiss Federal Court quashed Brian's prison sentence, instructing the cantonal authorities to end his solitary confinement and to systematically investigate allegations of torture or ill-treatment in relation to a wide range of measures and sanctions imposed on him since 2006, when he was only 11 years old.

“This latest move by the Swiss authorities represents an important first step towards restoring justice and human dignity for Brian K,” said Melzer. “It is now important to develop a consolidated and sustainable path towards rehabilitation and re-integration.”

Melzer explained that he had decided to postpone his visit to Brian K. in order to give the authorities time to implement and consolidate the positive measures initiated by them and to conduct the investigations required by the Federal Court in line with applicable international human rights standards.

“My visit has not been cancelled, but merely postponed and can be carried out whenever deemed necessary,” he said. “In the meantime, I will continue to closely monitor the evolution of this case and stand ready to assist the authorities in the spirit of constructive dialogue and consultation.

ENDS

Nils Melzer Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment 

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Comprising the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, Special Procedures is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Switzerland

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