Swiss police face homicide charges in Black man’s 2018 death

A Swiss court case commences today, with six police officers facing homicide charges following the 2018 death of a Nigerian man, Mike Ben Peter, aged 39. The man suffered a heart attack after being pinned facedown for several minutes during his arrest. The officers, whose identities remain undisclosed due to Swiss privacy laws, are charged with “homicide by neglect” and are seeking acquittal, according to their lawyers.

This case bears resemblance to the 2020 killing of George Floyd in the United States, and is one of four incidents in the canton of Vaud since 2016 where Black men have died during police interventions, sparking protests and calls for reforms. However, unlike the George Floyd case, there is no video footage of the incident that allegedly led to Ben Peter’s death.

A report by a group of United Nations experts last year highlighted systemic racism issues in Switzerland, raising serious concerns about “excessive use of force and the expectation of impunity by police” and citing this case. A government-mandated study has since acknowledged the problem as structural and admitted that measures taken so far have been insufficient.

Simon Ntah, the lawyer representing the family, expressed his lack of optimism for a ruling against the officers, who face a maximum prison sentence of three years. “As long as there isn’t a mechanism for independent investigations against the police, we are stuck with the same problems,” Ntah told Reuters news agency, criticising the fact that the same public prosecutor who works with police on other criminal cases is in charge of cases like this one.

According to the indictment, officers noticed Ben Peter during a Lausanne drug patrol when he collected a bag later found to contain marijuana. He did not comply with police requests, and the officers used pepper spray and knee kicks to the ribs and crotch to handcuff him on the ground. Despite continuing to struggle, he was held facedown by several officers for three minutes, until they realised he appeared unconscious. Ben Peter was later pronounced dead after suffering a heart attack, with the indictment citing multiple causes, including being held on his stomach and subjected to stress.

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Matthew Coles

Matthew is a British journalist with a unique flair in reporting about the latest news and events happening in Europe. Matthew focuses on producing well-researched, balanced, and narrative-driven content related to both national and regional interests across various European countries. He is passionate about discovering the diverse cultures found within Europe and showcasing them through his insightful articles.

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