Statewatch article: RefNo# 3069
SWITZERLAND: Deportation deaths
Statewatch bulletin, vol 11 no 3/4 (May-July 2001)
On 1 May Samson Chukwu, a Nigerian detained awaiting his deportation, died whilst being taken from his cell at 2 o'clock in the morning by officers from the Anti?Terror Unit (unité spécial d'intervention) from the canton of Valais. According to the officers, they twisted the man's arms behind his back and held him face down on the ground. The post?mortem identified death by suffocation, or positional asphyxia. The Zurich based human rights group augenauf as well as Amnesty International have criticised Swiss deportation practices as well as the official response to the second death of a deportee at the hands of Swiss police officers within two years. The authorities, with no tangible evidence, stereotyped Samson Chukwu as yet another Nigerian drugs dealer with suspected congenital or cardiac problems. Amnesty International and augenauf demand an immediate review of deportation operations and call for all forced deportations to be stopped until further investigation into this lethal police practice.

Not the first
The death of Samson Chukwu is not the first death during a forcible deportation from Switzerland, and certainly not the first in the EU. In March 1999, Palestinian Khaled Abuzarifa died (Statewatch vol 9 nos 3 & 4), sedated, his mouth sealed with plastic tape, bound hand and foot and strapped into a wheelchair, during his deportation from the "deportation airport" in Kloten/Zurich. The post?mortem identified asphyxia, as did the post?mortem report on Samson Chukwu.
In the case of Khaled Abuzarifa, legal proceedings were initiated against a doctor employed by the Canton of Bern and the three officers accompanying Khaled, on grounds of manslaughter. The doctor who had witnessed the taping of Khaled's mouth and had approved it as safe, was sentenced by the regional court to a five months' suspended prison sentence and was ordered to pay CHF 50,000 ($28,000) in damages to the family of the deceased. Two officers were acquitted and in the case of the third the judge referred the files back to the prosecutor's office for re?examination and for additional charges: because there was no single document brought forward during the trial to indicate that there was an order to tape the victim's mouth, the incident is being handled as an abuse of position on the part of the officer in charge. This decision indicates the officer has failed in his responsibilities towards the prisoner. The judge further called into question the legality of the use of taping in light of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights ("No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment").
In the case of Samson, the officers forced the man on his stomach onto the ground with his hands handcuffed behind his back, a practice often used by arresting officers during forced deportations, and which is also known amongst the police to be potentially lethal. augenauf also points out that during forced deportations with charter jets, (known as Level?4 deportations in Switzerland), the arresting officers are reported to have used excessive force, in an attempt to immediately quell any resistance by the deportee. According to Amnesty International,
There have...been a number of reports that police escorts have subjected some deportees to physical assault and racist abuse, that recalcitrant deportees have on occasion been given sedatives in order to subdue them, rather than for purely medical reasons, and that a number of deportees have been deprived of food, liquid and access to a lavatory for many hours, until they reach their destination. Some have even been offered the degrading option of wearing incontinence pads ? an officially sanctioned practice at Zurich airport, abandoned in the course of 2000 and replaced with special urine?absorbent airline seats.
Samson did not get that far. At 3 am, one hour after he had been arrested, a doctor declared him dead.

"Positional asphyxia"
The post?mortem examina

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