Academic inquiry

The academic inquiry into compulsory social measures and placements is a central pillar of the entire process of coming to terms with the past. Its findings are intended in particular to help understand why and how compulsory social measures and placements were ordered and carried out. The inquiry also examines the impact on the victims and their families at the time, as well as the continuing effects today.

In 2014, the Federal Council appointed an Independent Expert Commission (IEC) to deal in particular with the history and mechanisms of administrative detention (its mandate ended in 2019). In addition to the work of the IEC, a national research programme (NRP 76 "Welfare and Coercion – Past, Present and Future") is currently entrusted with carrying out a thorough academic inquiry into all affected groups with explicit reference to the present and the future.

The work of the IEC and the NRP 76 are coordinated to complement each other in terms of content. This is in order to provide as complete a picture as possible of the various compulsory social measures and placements. Strong emphasis is to be placed on the relevance to the present day, especially in the NRP 76.  

IEC’s review of administrative detention

From 2014–2018, the IEC investigated administrative detention in Switzerland. The research results and final report were published in 10 volumes in autumn 2019. The IEC’s work has shown that administrative detention was a phenomenon of considerable magnitude. During the entire 20th century, at least 60 000 people were administratively detained in around 650 institutions throughout Switzerland – without having committed an offence and without having been convicted by a court.

NRP 76 "Welfare and Coercion – Past, Present and Future"

In February 2017, the Federal Council commissioned the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) to conduct a new national research programme entitled "Welfare and Coercion – Past, Present and Future" (NRP 76). This programme aims to conduct a thorough investigation into the issue using a multi-disciplinary approach.

A total of 29 research projects deal with the characteristics, mechanisms and effects of Swiss welfare policy and practice, identify possible causes of welfare practices that had an impact on the integrity of the persons concerned, and explore how they were affected by these practices.

The findings of the NRP 76 will be made publicly available and discussed with interested parties. The aim is to strengthen the academic voice on the topic of welfare and coercion, thus providing decision-makers with academically supported, reference-based knowledge, and impetus for actio.

Initial research findings are expected in autumn 2022, while the synthesis reports will be published in 2024.

Other research projects

There has been a diverse range of methodological research on compulsory social measures and placements up until present.

In addition to the two above-mentioned nationwide research projects commissioned by the Confederation, a significant contribution to the academic inquiry into compulsory social measures and placements is also being made by the cantons, the cities and communes, institutions (churches, homes, correctional facilities, psychiatric clinics, etc.) and professional associations. A large number of research projects that specifically look at local, cantonal references and focus on individual institutions have been and continue to be funded and supported.

A large number of academic theses and studies on the subject also exist, some of which have been produced within the framework of the SNSF funding programmes (the Sinergia project "Placing children in care") and other national research programmes (e.g. NRP 51 "Social Integration and Social Exclusion" and NFP 58 "Religions, the State and Society").

Dissemination and use (valorisation) of academic findings

The Federal Act on Compulsory Social Measures and Placements prior to 1981 (CSMPA) provides that, in collaboration with the above-mentioned institutions responsible for the academic inquiry, the Federal Office of Justice is to ensure that the academic findings are disseminated and used (valorised). These findings are to be made available to the public in an appropriate format as a contribution to long-term remembrance work and the culture of remembrance. In this context, the Federal Office of Justice primarily carries out specific coordination work and promotion initiatives.

The Federal Office of Justice is currently working on the conceptual foundations for valorising the academic results. In coordination with the NRP 76, which will continue until 2024, and in addition to existing dissemination activities, suitable measures are to be developed for the dissemination and communication of the research results and for documentation on the reappraisal process.

Further information is available from the Federal Office of Justice (see contact column).

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Last modification 18.08.2022

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