Up until 1981, the Swiss authorities imprisoned thousands of people who were not tried for any crime, under a procedure known as administrative detention.
60,000 were imprisoned in this way, often for years at a time, according to an estimate published by RTS.
Referred to as a kind of compulsory welfare, people, including men, women and children, were imprisoned for behaviour that was deemed socially unacceptable, such as alcoholism, being an illegitimate mother, a rebel, a beggar, gay, or being judged work shy or unable to support oneself. Most had no legal defense and no access to a fair trial.
Deprived of their freedom, some were forced to work for no pay, while others were abused and in some cases sterilized.
Since 2014, an Independent Expert Commission (IEC) has been investigating this dark part of Switzerland’s history. Alongside this work the Federal Government decided to compensate victims.
On 27 November 2019, the IEC reported that all of the 9,018 applications for compensation will be processed before the end of 2019. Payments of CHF 25,000 will be made to each claimant by the end of March 2020, one year ahead of plan.
The Federal Council said that the focus would now shift to increasing financial support for self-help projects and the public dissemination of IEC research results.