Swiss Police uses the oppressive methods of dictatorships?

An open letter from an activist from Uzbekistan

Dear colleagues,

My name is Hasanboy Burhanov, I am the founder of the political opposition movement Erkin O’zbekiston (Free Uzbekistan), which aims to build a secular, democratic, multi-confessional, multi-cultural and legal society in Uzbekistan, so that even the most vulnerable members of society could finally have the opportunity to realize their dreams.

I am a citizen of the Republic of Uzbekistan and have been living in Germany as a political refugee since autumn 2012. In 2013, the German authorities granted me political asylum under Section §16 “а” of the Basic Law.

On June 15, 2021, on the eve of the meeting between the US and Russian Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, a peaceful anti-Putin protest was organized in Geneva. I participated in it, with the slogan: “Putin, hands off Uzbekistan”.

It was my first time in Geneva. My return ticket to Germany was booked for June 17. On June 16, I decided to walk around the city center. Little did I know that on that very day, I would face a flagrant violation of human dignity and would need to deal with a serious misconduct of the police.

Around 11 am I was near Jet d’eau de Genève. There was a large gathering of people and quite a lot of press representatives with cameras were present. It turns out that the motorcades of the presidents were to pass through that point at that very time. I was very curious and decided to make a few photos.

As many other people present there, I began to take pictures of the beautiful scenery of the Geneva lake. I was not shouting out any slogans or attracting the attention of bystanders. However, I was approached by 5 or 6 armed police officers in black uniforms, who circled me and asked me to produce my documents. After taking my passport, they said that I would need to go with them.

Everyone present, including me, was very surprised to see that the police took interest in me.

We walked for 100-150 meters, entered a yard of a house through an archway, after which I was taken towards their bus and put against the wall. At that point, an unceremonious search procedure started.

I asked them the reason for my detention, and demanded an interpreter, as my knowledge of English did not allow me to speak properly. I was refused an interpreter. Then I asked for the protocol of the search, but this too was refused.

The search and the interrogation lasted about 30-40 minutes. One policeman asked me to hold my passport against my t-shirt. My t-shirt bore a portrait of Vladimir Putin and the inscription “Hands off Uzbekistan”. I followed the orders of the police officer, who took several photos of my passport against the background of my t-shirt.
I also attempted to film the police officers on my phone, but they did not allow me to.

As I am a physically disabled person and use mobility aids (two crutches), it was very difficult for me to stand in one place. I leaned my back against the wall. I was tired and wanted to sit on the ground, but they wouldn’t let me do that either. It was a real mockery of a man with clear signs of disability.

One of the police officers demanded that I take off my T-shirt, as it bore a portrait of Vladimir Putin and the inscription “Hands off Uzbekistan”. I refused to comply with his demands.

After a while, a police van arrived with three more police officers in blue uniforms appeared. As I understood, they belonged to the Geneva police.

A crowd of about 10 policemen had already formed around me, and each one was trying to ask me something. I was puzzled that there was so much fuss over my T-shirt.
In principle it is my right to decide what clothes I wear, what portrait I have on them and what slogan want to share. I am a free person and am under the full protection of German law.

The portrait on my T-shirt is a work of art by Daria Marchenko and Daniel Green, called “The Face of War”. The portrait was created in 2015 from 5,000 cartridges of different calibers from the war zone in eastern Ukraine. The portrait has been published over 4,000 times in newspapers and news outlets around the world – by The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Associated Press, France Press, BBC, Sky News, USA Today, NBC News, ABC News, The Guardian, The Telegraph, International Business Times, New York Post, London Art News, The Star, Voice of America, Die Welt and many others.

The next thing that happened was that some more police officers arrived and took me to the Geneva police station (du Bourg-de Four Place du Bourg-de-Four 3, 1204 Genève). At the station, they took me to a small concrete cell, where they searched me once again and took my belongings away. I tried to resist, again insisted on having an interpreter, pointed out the right to make one phone call to inform my friends about what had happened. My demands were not met.

When the police stripped me of my belongings, I demanded this to be in the protocol, but this was also refused.

They also took away my orthopaedic shoes and crutches. In the cell they took a rapid alcohol test. I never consume any alcohol and the test could have been only negative. Nevertheless, I was not made aware of the test results.

After a while, an officer came in and said that they needed to take my fingerprints, but for that I had to be taken down the corridor. I informed the officer that I needed my crutches and orthopaedic shoes as I could not move around without them. I was only given my crutches and had to walk barefoot and with great difficulty (my trouser belt was also taken away; I had to use both my arms to support myself, but at the same time I also needed to hold my trousers somehow) I moved down the corridor towards the fingerprinting machine.

I was kept in a cell for a few hours and then released without being shown any detention document.

It was a rude violation of my human dignity and a total violation of all my rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

I was devastated and could not imagine that all this was happening in one of the most democratic countries in the world. That, too – in a country that is home to the headquarters of the world’s humanitarian and human rights organisations.

I wanted to film the passage of the Presidents’ motorcade on my phone after all, and after a few hours I went back to Jet d’eau de Genève. The place was just as crowded as in the morning. There were press, journalists with cameras and microphones, and ordinary citizens.

After about 15 minutes, a police bus pulled up and around 6 or 7 people got out. They started talking to one another, and one of the female police officers looked in my direction and started taking photographs of me and making phone calls. Three or four minutes later, just as in the morning, six policemen came up, surrounded me and demanded my documents. The nightmare was repeating itself.

They took my passport and demanded that I step aside with them. After walking 15-20 meters away from where I was standing, I was again subjected to a search by police. They were checking the contents of my rucksack and did not respond to any of my comments or explanations.

People around started to notice the police’s actions, some of them filmed the whole process on their phones. At that moment, I saw two of my colleagues I had met during the protest actions on the previous day, who were also filming this terrible scene. They asked me what was happening, so I gave them a brief account of the situation.
The police was getting nervous and aggressive. My colleagues were also detained by the federal police and searched in the same unceremonious way. The police also wanted to check their documents. Like me, they began demanding that the police comply with the procedural norms.

Surprisingly, for some reason, the police refused to speak German, and their personal police officer numbers were hidden behind white armbands.
The local police van pulled up again, and the police used brute force to drag me to the car.

I found myself in the police van, which was taking me to the same police station I had already known from the morning (du Bourg-de Four Place du Bourg-de-Four 3, 1204 Genève).

At the station, I went through the same humiliating process again. Without any explanations for the reasons of detention, denied interpreter and any documentation, I was stripped off my belongings, had to do alcohol test again, was made undressed, searched, denied a phone call.

After spending about two hours there, I was released; no one bothered to offer a ride to the hotel.

Due to the movement of the motorcades of the US and Russian presidents, the traffic in the city was blocked. With great difficulty I made my way towards the hotel. The next day I left Geneva with a heavy heart.

I was profoundly outraged at the lawlessness of the Swiss Federal Police. Instead of defending the democratic foundations of the rule of law, they proved to be in the service of dictator Putin.

If someone were to tell me my own story about that day in Geneve, I would not believe that person. But all this did happen! Also, there were numerous witnesses who were also observing the situation and managed to record the lawlessness of the Swiss police on video, with their phones.

On June 16, 2021 the Swiss democracy was slapped in the face by its own police. It is shocking to even think of it!

A crime like this must never happen again. The actions of the police officers who committed such a crime must be subject to legal review.

Otherwise this case will set a precedent for further anti-human behavior of the Swiss police officers not only against people with disabilities, but also against all free citizens of the country.

Methods of arbitrary “preventive detentions” are well known to the human rights defenders around the world. These methods are used as one of the engines of political repressions against peaceful opponents of dictator regimes.

I therefore demand that:
1. That an official investigation be opened against the police officers, who have flagrantly violated my rights, as specified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
2. That Ms Karin Keller-Sutter, Federal Councillor, Head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police of Switzerland, publicly apologizes to me for actions of her subordinates. If she does not do so, she should resign from her post.
I am now addressing the representatives of international humanitarian and human rights organisations, international human rights lawyers, and Swiss and other counties’ nationals who happened to witness the incident. I am appealing to you for help, I need your support in this case, your sincere assistance in establishing the rule of law.
I would also like to encourage the interested media to report on the case independently.

Regards,
Hasanboy Burhanov