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7th Sept. 2006

Press Contacts:
Lawyer Jean-Piere Garbade (fr, de, en, es): 0041 22 32 957 52, mobile : 0041 792 136 133

G8 Evian 2003: Tribunal confirms police impunity in Switzerland

Final appeal in the Aubonne Bridge Case against the police rejected

Seven months after a judge found two policemen not guilty for nearly killing two anti-G8 activists in 2003, the tribunal of the Canton of Vaud today decided to reject the appeal filed by activists Martin Shaw (English) and Gesine Wenzel (German).

Following on from the shocking «Innocent» verdict against Claude Poget (Vaud) and Michael Deis (Schaffhausen) of 17 February 2006, the tribunal of the Canton of Vaud decided today to reject the appeal.

Gesine Wenzel, whose life was only saved when the activists on the bridge quickly grabbed her climbing rope as it was being cut by Officer Deiss, said, « I hope this decision has made it clear to everybody that this system is corrupt. All this talk of impartial justice and equality in front of the law is pure hypocrisy. We were found guilty for endangering the lives of the car drivers, and yet the police officers who very nearly killed us have had their violent actions whitewashed once again by the courts. Now the court of appeal has proven beyond doubt that there is no way to hold the Swiss police accountable for their abuse of power even when they are caught on video. Our case is only the tip of the iceberg. This is what passes for « justice » in Switzerland. »

Martin Shaw will never fully recover from the 23-m fall where he shattered his foot and broke his back. In principle it is the responsibility of the government of the Canton de Vaud to pay compensation since they are responsible for the actions of their police, but now this juridical whitewash might give them an excuse to refuse payment. Until now the government of the Canton de Vaud did not even apoligize or show any attempt to review their police strategies despite the fact it became obvious during the court case that there was a complete lack of information, communication and coordination on the part of the police.
Martin Shaw says « I will be crippled for the rest of my life. I have had to give up my work as an electrician. While all the shop keepers got compensation for broken shop windows, activists who had their bones broken by the Swiss police will never see a penny. This is what their « democracy » looks like.»

This appeal was the final judicial possibilty to hold the police accountable for their actions. There is no possibilty to appeal to a higher court due to a restrictive law that prohibits citizens from making direct claims against a policeofficer at the federal level.
The activists’ lawyer, Jean-Pierre Garbade declared « It is clear that the two police officers violated the law. The fact that now the court of appeal also grants them impunity for very questionable reasons raises big concerns about the protection of civil rights in Switzerland as did the attitude of the general prosecutor who refused to uphold the accusation.»

The activists point out: “This is the exactly the reason, why we believe in direct action and self-management. This system is only pretending to be democratic. The G8 is the best example for their hypocrisy. This decision made us even stronger in our beliefs. Our struggle continues.”

This is the information we have at the moment. As soon as we receive the details of this unjustifiable judgement we will let you know.

Background Information:
Martin Shaw and Gesine Wenzel nearly lost their lives during the Aubonne Bridge Action against the G8 in Evian 2003 when the police cut the climbing rope that held both activists. Martin survived the 23m fall only due to sheer luck but was crippled from the extensive bone breakage he suffered. Gesine Wenzel had her life saved in the last second by her collegues on the bridge. Both activists were found guilty and sentenced for blocking the road and endangering life in 2004. They filed a complaint against the police, which was initially rejected. It was only after an appeal was upheld that a courtcase against the senior officer on the bridge, Claude Poget, and the officer who cut the rope, Michael Deiss, took place in January this year. After three days the judge found the police not guilty without being able to produce any reasonable arguments. The judge, Pierre Bruttin, stated that it was the activists’ own fault saying if they had not been hanging from the bridge, the police could not have cut the rope. Secondly, the prosecutor, Daniel Stoll, admitted that objectively seen, the police had made several mistakes, but that subjectively this was understandable due to the stress they were exposed to and by the fact that this form of protest action was unknown to them. He withdraw the accusation.


20th February 2006

Activists appeal against whitewash of Police Violence

Following the aquittal of two Swiss police officers who nearly killed them in the G8 protests in 2003, Martin Shaw and Gesine Wenzel have decided to appeal the decision of the regional court.

Press Contacts: Gesine Wenzel or Martin Shaw: +41 7868 36405,

During the G8 Summit of 2003 in Evian, France, a number of activists organised the blockade of a motorway in an attempt to stop a group of delegates from reaching the summit. With the intention of further delaying police and delegates, Martin Shaw from Briton, and Gesine Wenzel hung themselves from a bridge on climbing ropes above a shallow stream. Swiss officers Claude Poget and Michael Deiss were on the scene quickly, and Officer Deiss cut the rope of Shaw, nearly killing him when he fell 23m.

ASwiss court case last week, which received large scale national and international media attention, controversially found the officers free of any responsibility for their actions. The activists now plan to appeal.

“The courtcase last week was a pure theater play to manipulate the public opinion and to wash blood off the officers hands”, declared Gesine Wenzel. “This verdict is just further proof that the police enjoy near total impunity in Switzerland. It’s like giving them a blank-cheque for all future abuse and brutality. With our appeal we want to expose the fact that this system is corrupt from top to bottom. ”

The lawyer of Mr. Shaw and Ms. Wenzel, Jean-Pierre Garbade, declared, “The police officers are guilty. The senior officer Claude Poget has made several mistakes. He ignored his orders to open a dialogue with the activists and just threw them off the road instead. He did not evaluate the situation before taking action, as he should have. Secondly, it is inadmissible that he did not inform his subordonate about the presence of the climbers hanging from the bridge. Furthermore, his subordonate Michael Deiss should not have taken action before asking for consent. The decision of the tribunal is mistaken.”

Martin Shaw said, “The attitude of the defense is predictible, but still disgusting. The entire court case felt like a trial against us instead of the police. Blaming the victims is one of the most cowardly things you can do. They say it was the temerity of our action which made us fall, - as if we cut our own rope. Their excuse is that the police were under stress and that they had never seen an action like that before. The fact is that it was more important for them to get the traffic going especially because the G8 delegation was arriving than to protect our lifes. The entire judicial procedure is a systematic cover up of police brutality.”

The Aubonne Support Group states, “Police impunity has a long history in Switzerland. It is the first time in more than 20 years that police officers had to defend themselves for abuse of power in front of the higher court. The judicial system is established in such a way that makes convictions of police officers almost impossible. The prosecution and the court are working on a daily basis with the police, so they will never convict them. The only institution that could possibly be slightly independent is the federal court, but they made a law excluding all appeals in cases against civil servants to the federal court. In this way they have constructed a system that leaves trials against police officers always in the hands of their colleagues.”

“After the G8 Summit in Evian many complaints against police brutality have been filed which were rejected by the chief prosecutor. 15 people in Switzerland have partially lost their eyesight in recent years after having rubber bullets directly shot at their heads. The police always claim they can’t identify the policeman who did it, for example with the case of Guy Smallman, a journalist who was attacked in the 2003 G8 protest with a stun granade that blew his calf muscle apart.”

The answer of the Court de Cassation regarding the appeal is expected for summer. This is the last possible instance of appeal for the two G8 activists. The only legal option that is left if the appeal gets rejected is to open a civil court case against the canton of Vaud to claim compensation, since they are responsable for their officers. However, the chances are not high since the police appear to have complete impunity in Switzerland.

Activists Walk Out Before Police Got Aquitted In The Aubonne Case

17.2.2006, Nyon, Switzerland

Protesters gathered in front of the court on the day of the verdict of the two policemen who nearly killed the two climbers during the G8 summit in Evian.

Several wore big carboard swiss army knives on their backs to demonstrate that the Swiss police can potentially kill people and receive impunity from the justice system. Other protestors were dressed as cleaners and started helping the court in their whitewash, cleaning the court with sponges and toothbrushes.
Martin Shaw and Gesine Wenzel, the injured climbers, held a banner saying: “The justice system whitewashes police brutality”.
A lot of press, radio and TV journalists were present during the delivery of the verdict.

Pressrelease (17.02.06)

At 11.45h the courtroom was fillled with press and protestors as the judge started reading his 23 page judgement. In the beginning the judge Pierre Bruttin stated that in his court there is no of police impunity, and that the court had considered all of the case with a lot of caution and decided only on the basis of the facts and evidence in relation to the law. As he continued to deliver his verdict it became clear that he was only repeating the arguments of the defense, whilst contradicting those of the prosecution by the civil party. His verdict did not consider the most important and critical points. His main argument was that the cutting of the rope was provoked by the temerity of the activists, and that objectively the police had made mistakes, but that subjectively these had to be understood due to the amount of stress they were under.

At this point Gesine and Martin decided that they had had enough. They stood up, unfolded a banner saying “Police partout, justice nul part”, (police everywhere, justice nowhere) and stated, - we are going, we have heard enough Bullshit, lies and excuses – and walked out. Also all other protestors also decided to leave the court room. Outside the climbers declared in front of the TV that this was just another proof of police impunity in Switzerland and that it is clear that the justice systems covers up police brutality.

Not much later the rest of the public came out as well and the lawyer answered questions to the press about what he thought about the aquittal, stateing that it was a judicial scandal that such a behaviour could be excused by stress and impulsivity.

The climbers then read out their declaration in front of the tribunal:

“What we have seen here during the last three days is exactly the reason why we and thousands of other people like us all over the world think that direct action is the best way to overcome injustice. ?The entire judicial procedure from the time the rope was cut has been clear whitewash. The prosecution is supposed to defend the law but what they actually defend is the state – and its officers. This court case has been an elaborate, expensive and time-consuming piece of theatre to provide a platform to find excuses for inexcusable actions and to misguide the public by pretending to provide justice. ?This verdict is a pure cover up of police brutality by the justice system and is just further proof of the almost complete police impunity in Switzerland.”

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