In Switzerland, from the end of the 19th century to 1981, specific laws authorised the detention of persons whose life style did not match that of the world of work, the family, the community, or even the Church. These privations of liberty, decreed outside the judici-ary by local administrative authorities, or at canton level, were designed to re-educate those people who the authorities designated as ‘lazy’, ‘drunkards’, ‘work shy’, of dubious morality, or who simply ran the risk of falling into abject poverty. As soon as Switzerland signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights, the coercive mechanism was abandoned, but recent years have seen it returning to the centre of debate. Following pres-sure from the victims, the Federal Government has issued official apologies, has intro-duced reparation laws, and has commissioned a team of experts to carry out an historical study. Our article examines their findings and looks at the key questions which have emerged.
Keywords: Administrative detention, Coercive assistance, Forced labour, Switzerland, Reparation laws