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Capital punishment is forbidden in Switzerland by article 10, paragraph 1 of the Swiss Federal Constitution. It was abolished from federal criminal law in 1942, but remained in the military criminal law until 1992.

In modern times, the common method for execution was the decapitation with the sword. In 1835, the guillotine was added, although many cantons allowed the person to be executed to choose between these two methods. The last person to be executed with a sword was Niklaus Emmenegger in Lucerne on July 6, 1867. In 1848, the death penalty for political crimes was forbidden by the constitution. In 1874, it was then generally abolished. Because of an increase in crime, which was likely due to the economic depression at the time, capital punishment was, however, re-introduced in 1879.

On December 21, 1937, in the course of the standardisation of Swiss criminal law, Swiss parliament passed a new criminal code, which abolished capital punishment, after fervid debates. It was ratified by referendum on July 3, 1938, and came into power on January 1, 1942. The last person to be sentenced to death by a civil court and executed was Hans Vollenweider, convicted of three murders and then executed on October 18, 1940 in Sarnen, Obwalden.

Swiss military law, however, still provided for the death penalty for treason. During World War II, 30 Swiss soldiers were sentenced to death and 17 of these were executed before the end of the war. This law was abolished by the Federal Assembly on March 20, 1992 after a parliamentary initiative by Massimo Pini of the Free Democratic Party of Switzerland.

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This article incorporates information from the revision as of October 21, 2006 of the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.


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