Iseli v Public Prosecutor of Zurich

Date14 août 1954
CourtCourt of Cassation (Switzerland)
Switzerland, Cour de Cassation.
Iseli and Others
Public Prosecutor of the Canton of ZüRich.

Territorial Sovereignty — Infringement of — Abduction of Persons for the Purpose of Handing Them Over to Foreign Authorities.

The Facts.—In August 1952 the three appellants invited a watch dealer to accompany them in their car, with some 1,300 watches, to a town on the German frontier, on the pretext that they would there meet a prospective buyer of the watches. On arrival at the frontier, the watch dealer was persuaded to leave the watches in the car and to cross to the German side of the frontier for a meal. Without the knowledge of the watch dealer one of the appellants took fifty of the watches into Germany. At the restaurant these watches were given to the watch dealer. At the same time one of the appellants telephoned the German customs authorities and denounced the watch dealer for smuggling. The latter was accordingly arrested in the restaurant. The purpose of the denunciation was to enable the appellants, following the arrest of the watch dealer, to steal the watches which had remained in their car. They were caught. In December 1953 a jury in the Canton of Zürich found them guilty of theft and of unlawful acts on behalf of a foreign State, in that they handed over the watch dealer to the German authorities, in violation of Article 271 (2) of the Penal Code. This was an appeal from that conviction.

It was contended on behalf of the appellants that Article 271 (2) of the Penal Code, concerning the handing over of persons to a foreign authority, applied only to cases where such persons were liable to political persecution.

Held: that the appeal must be dismissed. The prohibition of handing persons over to foreign authorities, which was intended to protect the territorial sovereignty of Switzerland, was not limited to political fugitives.

The Court said: “Article 271 (2) of the Penal Code subjects to punishment any person ‘who abducts another person to a foreign country, by force, stealth or threats, for the purpose of handing that other person over to a foreign authority, party, or other organization, or exposing him to danger of life or limb’. This provision was essentially taken over from the Federal Decision of June 21, 1935, concerning the Protection of the Safety of the Confederation. In the Message concerning the Decision the Federal Council referred to the cases of Rossi, Weber and Jacob, cases of political abduction to...

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