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Switzerland: Crime Victim Compensation

(Apr. 2, 2008) On April 8, 2008, Switzerland promulgated an Act on Crime Victim Compensation (Opferhilfegesetz, Mar. 23, 2007, AMTLICHE SAMMLUNG (AS) 1607 (2008)) that will become effective on January 1, 2009. The Act replaces the former Crime Victim Compensation Act of October 4, 1991 (AS 2465 (1992)) and contains some reforms. In particular, the new Act increases the amount of compensation that must be paid by the cantonal governments while it eliminates the formerly existing compensation of Swiss residents for crimes that were perpetrated outside of Switzerland.

Under the new Act, victims of violent crimes that were perpetrated in Switzerland obtain counseling and various forms immediate assistance that are, however, need-based and not granted to high-income earners. Compensation, on the other hand, is granted to all victims and their survivors irrespective of their financial situation, if the victims had suffered death, bodily harm, mental anguish, or sexual transgressions as the result of a violent crime. Compensation for death and personal injury is granted in accordance with the general torts law provisions of articles 45 and 46 of the Code of Obligations (SYSTEMATISCHE SAMMLUNG No. 220), but the overall damages are capped at Swiss Francs 120,000 (US$ 119,000) per crime. In addition, another form of damages can be awarded in serious cases, to grant satisfaction to the victim for the humiliation of the crime (Genugtuung, Code of Obligations, arts. 47 & 49), and these are capped at 70,000 Swiss Francs (about US$69,560) for the victim and 35,000 Swiss Francs for survivors.