Switzerland a Federal Republic in essay

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The Army XXI program for major military transformations has been in progress since 2004 (U.S. Department of State 2009). Last year's goals were consolidation and improvement of quality. The parliament approved Development Stage 08/11 for military reforms for 2008-2011 in 2007. The overall aim was to reduce military size while maintaining high quality of knowledge and equipment standards. At the same time, Development Stage 08/11 aimed at increasing military personnel for overseas deployment, such as for peacekeeping and disaster relief. In 2007, the Swiss parliament approved an increase of Peace Support Operations from 250 to 500. Increased cooperation with civilian authorities could also be anticipated, such as with the police and the border watch corps (U.S. Department of State).

The Swiss Military and the Citizens

The Swiss armed forces are a civilian-controlled militia of able-bodied males intended for universal military service (BDHRL 2004). Apart from training cadres and a scattering of essential headquarters staff, there is no standing army to speak of. Individual cantons perform primary police duties. Cantons have their own police forces, which are effectively controlled by civilians. The outcome is that only a few members of the police force commit human rights abuses. Switzerland enjoys the status of a highly developed free enterprise, an industrial and service economy and a high standard of living for its 7.3 million citizens. The government generally respects their human rights. When violations and problems come up, the law and the judiciary deal with individual cases of abuse. The police only use excessive force occasionally, often against aliens and asylum seekers. There have, however, been reports of trafficking of women and children, which the government takes steps to address (BDHRL).

Human Rights Guaranteed by the Constitution

The 2000 Constitution provides for respect for the integrity of the individual and civil liberties (BDHRL 2004). Section 1 protects the individual citizen from arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life; disappearance; torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; arbitrary arrest, detention or exile; denial of fair public trial; and arbitrary interference with privacy, family home or correspondence. Section 2 guarantees freedom of speech and press and freedom of peaceful assembly and association. There were no reported political killings, disappearance and torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the latest country report. Prison conditions generally comply with international standards. The government took measures to respond to earlier reports of prison overcrowding made by non-governmental organizations. It increased the number of detention facilities. The problem has, however, persisted in some areas. Male and female prisoners are kept separately. Young offenders are also housed apart from adult prisoners and pre-trial detainees from convicted criminals. Human rights observers and human rights groups are allowed to visit the prisons and monitor prison conditions (BDHRL).

The government generally observes the constitutional prohibition against arbitrary arrest, detention and exile (BDHRL 2004). Some NGOS, however, reported cases of arbitrary detention of asylum seekers. Handling of most criminal matters belongs to the cantons and at varying procedures. The Swiss Federal Police Office merely coordinates and relies on the cantons for actual enforcement of the law. In major cities like Zurich, Bern and Basel and some cantons, an ombudsman hears and tries citizen complaints and misdeeds in government. A suspect may not be detained longer than 48 hours without a warrant of arrest. Undocumented asylum seekers and foreigners may, however, be detained up to 96 hours even without a warrant. The suspect may be denied a legal counsel while in detention but he may acquire one when the warrant is issued. Indigent suspects may avail of free legal assistance while pending trial. Investigations are generally prompt. Bail is normally granted and denied only when the magistrate has reason to believe that the suspect is dangerous or will not show up during the trial. Higher judicial authorities review lengthy detentions. The Constitution also prohibits forced exile (BDHRL).

The Constitution provides for and guarantees judicial independence and the government generally respects the provision (BDHRL 2004). All courts of first instance are local or cantonal. Citizens enjoy the right to appeal as far as the Supreme Court. A single judge hears trials over minor offenses. A panel of judges hears more serious or complex offenses. A jury hears the most serious cases, such as murder. On the other hand, the Military Penal Code requires that war crimes or violations of the Geneva Convention be prosecuted and tried in Switzerland. This requirement disregards the place of the commission of the crime and whether the accused is a member of the military or a civilian. Civilian rules of evidence and procedure are applied in military trials. Appeal is allowed by the Military Penal Code. The accused often uses court-assigned defense attorneys. Any licensed attorney may become a military defense counselor. The government pays the defense costs. The judiciary generally enforces the Constitutional provision for fair trial. The Constitution also provides for public trials. The provision includes the right to challenge and present witnesses and evidence (BDHRL).

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary interference with personal privacy and privacy of the family, the home and communications (BDHRL 2004). All cantons regulate police entry and also prohibit police entry into private premises without a warrant. An existing law on telecommunication surveillance lists specific offenses, which will allow wiretapping and monitoring of emails of suspects of serious crimes. These serious crimes include money laundering, terrorism and corporate crimes (BDHRL).

Section 2 respects and guarantees the people's civil liberties, including freedom of speech and press, peaceful assembly and association (BDHRL 2004). Some municipalities, however, restrict the public distribution of pamphlets, particularly produced by scientologists. The State may also decide the limit the freedom of the press, including academic freedom, for certain groups, such as those expressing racist or anti-Semitic sentiments, through public speeches or in printed form. Other than this, the press has been free from government control and intervention. The federal government even indirectly subsidizes the press by paying 100 million Swiss francs -- or U.S.$74 million -- to reduce postal rates for newspaper distribution. The government-funded nationwide broadcast media enjoy editorial autonomy. Internet access is widely available and unrestricted in Switzerland. A coordination unit for Cyber Crime Control was set up by the Federal Office for Police in January 2004 to combat child pornography on the internet (BHDRL).

Reforms in the Swiss Military: to Promote Swiss Interests

Switzerland has, for centuries, been a multicultural democracy, which has enjoyed military neutrality (Michaud 2004). Experience, however, demonstrated that this system makes necessary changes difficult to effect. It took more than 5 years to draft the first military reform in response to global environment developments. The size of the military and its close integration with society accounted for much of the delay in enforcing reform. Political insecurity and the long and tedious voting process involved in military issues further delayed the initiative. It took all that long to secure the approval of sustaining 34 combat fighter planes and the decision to refuse the commitment of troops under the authority of the United Nations (Michaud).

Before the first reform was instituted, political decisions were generally unfavorable to the military (Michaud 2004). Troops were cut back from 650,000 to 400,000 soldiers. Basic training was reduced from 17 to 15 weeks. Mandatory retirement went down from 55 to 42. These decisions were attuned to political consensus and sacrificed military flexibility. The Armed Forces of '95 grew out of the situation and coined the slogan, "more muscles and less fat." It evolved into an organization almost exclusively focused on high-intensity conflicts and with much less flexibility in dealing with low-intensity and non-conventional conflicts. That reform exposed the Swiss military's lack of capability to change and also questioned its traditional neutrality doctrine. Since 1997, old systems like Bloodhound missiles, un-motorized artillery and tanks without stabilized turrets, have vanished. The situation urged for more fundamental reforms (Michaud).

The Swiss Federal Council conceived of a four-step transformation for undertaking between 1996 and 2003 (Michaud 2004). The first step was the setting up of the 1996 Brunner Commission to analyze the geo-strategic situation; identify potential threats in the next 20-25 years and to recommend future policy. The Commission included politicians, economists, scientists and other prominent citizens in its ranks. The second step was to draw up a national security strategy, based on identified current and probable threats. The third step was a legal review towards a flexible transformation of the military with the support of parliament. And the fourth step was a new doctrine and the its support structure, drawn from the 2004 Armed Forces white paper (Michaud).

It took 18 months of hearing and consultations with many governmental organizations and foreign countries before the Commission came out with a 30-page report, which included 19 recommendations (Michaud 2004). The thrust was on how the Swiss could best defend their country under current circumstances while contributing to world peace and democracy. It informed the Swiss about the importance of joint peace efforts for visible and authentic…[continue]

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