Swiss border guard prosecuted for allegedly causing Syrian refugee's stillbirth

Husband says guards forcing them back to Italy ignored pleas for help as wife bled

Lizzie Dearden
Friday 12 May 2017 13:47 BST
Swiss border guard [not pictured] accused of causing woman's baby to be stillborn
Swiss border guard [not pictured] accused of causing woman's baby to be stillborn (AFP/Getty Images)

A Swiss border guard is being prosecuted for allegedly causing a Syrian woman’s stillbirth after failing to answer her husband’s pleas for medical help.

The 22-year-old woman, who was seven months pregnant at the time, was among refugees on a train from Milan to Paris who were stopped at the French border and ordered to return to Italy in July 2014.

A unit of Swiss border guards led by the suspect escorted them on a 130-mile bus journey crossing Switzerland from Vallorbe to Brig railway station, near the Italian border.

The woman, travelling with her husband and young children, started bleeding during the return journey after her waters broke early.

But her husband told local media his repeated calls for help were unanswered by Swiss guards, saying they were detained in a “cell” at Brig station for four hours with no medical assistance.

The woman was taken to hospital when she collapsed after being transferred by train to the Italian border town of Domodossola, but the baby was later stillborn.

“I thought that Switzerland was a civilised country,” her husband told 20 Minutes, according to a translation by The Local.

“We were fleeing death and war; we were just looking for hospitality. But my rights have been trampled on, as well as the rights of my wife and this little girl who couldn’t be born.”

The family have since been given asylum in Italy, where hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers have arrived after crossing the Mediterranean since the start of the ongoing crisis.

An Italian doctor interviewed by Swiss media said the tragedy could have been avoided if Swiss border guards had allowed the woman medical treatment.

A spokesperson for Switzerland’s military tribunal said prosecutors opened a case against the responsible border guard last week.

It is unclear exactly what charges he will face as investigations continue into exactly when the child died, and whether the stillbirth could have been averted.

If it is proven that the woman’s contractions started during the journey and her child was still alive at the time, the unnamed guard could be prosecuted for manslaughter.

“Court proceedings are expected to take place in the fourth quarter of this year,” a military tribunal spokesperson said.

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