[ 03. Mar 1999 // letzte änderung: 02. Jan 2005 ]

Khaled Abuzarifeh

* Palestinian asylum seeker
* Aged 27
* Died 3 March 1999, Switzerland
* Official cause of death: positional asphyxia


Case details: On a previous attempt to deport Khaled Abuzarifeh, he had protested so vociferously that the airline pilot refused to take him on board and the deportation failed. On the second attempt, he was to be deported from the detention centre at Zurich Kloten airport to Egypt. Abuzarifeh, who was accompanied by three police officers, was given a sedative had his mouth sealed with adhesive tape, was bound hand and foot and strapped into a wheelchair in preparation for deportation. He was accompanied by three deportation officers. He died in a lift at Switzerland"s Bern airport after suffering a panic attack, causing him to choke on his own vomit and suffocate. By this stage he was being taken for deportation restrained in a wheelchair and with his mouth sealed with adhesive tape.

Action taken: No halt on deportations, but the Swiss police announced that in future adhesive tape would not be used; instead deportees would have to wear a specially-designed deportation helmet (the type already banned in Germany). Immediately after Abuzarifeh"s death, police issued a press statement describing him as a "convicted drugs dealer" and implying that he could have taken drugs prior to deportation.

Prosecutions: In June 2001, two police officers were acquitted of manslaughter and the case against the third, in charge of the deportation, was sent back to the prosecutor"s office for re-examination and possible additional charges. The case is apparently still awaiting the authorities decision as to whether a prosecution will go ahead.

However, in June 2001 a doctor employed by the canton of Bern was found guilty of manslaughter and given a five-months suspended prison sentence (the sentence was later reduced to a three months suspended sentence on appeal) and ordered to pay compensation to the Palestinian"s family. During the court case, it was revealed that the doctor had ignored complaints from Abuzarifeh that he could not breathe properly when the adhesive tape was used to seal his mouth. The court ruled that the doctor had failed to observe a nasal deformation that reduced Abuzarifeh"s breathing capacity and that this should have been observed during a thorough medical examination prior to deportation.

Further action: The civil rights group Augenauf immediately initiated legal proceedings for manslaughter against the Zurich cantonal minister for police as well as against the unnamed police officers involved in the deportation.

Source: IRR Analysis: Deaths during forced deportation