Evian trial: Swiss police acquitted

IssueMarch 2006
News by Kev Smith

On 16 February 2006, two police officers were acquitted of charges of causing severe bodily harm to two activists who narrowly escaped with their lives after a police officer cut a climbing rope during an action at the protests against the G8 in Evian, Switzerland, in 2003. Despite clear video evidence that the police officers had cut the rope in question, the judge ruled that the police officers involved could not be held accountable.

In June 2003, two climbers suspended themselves on a rope across the Aubonne Bridge in order to stop a G8 delegation from reaching the summit in Evian. The police cut the climbing rope and nearly killed two activists. Martin Shaw, 42 from the UK, fell some 25 metres and broke his back, his pelvis and shattered his foot. Despite numerous operations, he will never make a complete recovery. The second climber Gesine Wenzel, who was saved when members of her affinity group grabbed her rope before she fell, suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder after the incident and has had to undergo intensive therapy.

Don't expect justice

“What we have seen is essentially a whitewash,” said Gesine Wenzel after the verdict was announced. “This verdict highlights the reason why we, and people all over the world, are resorting to direct action in the first place - because you can't expect justice from the courts or protection from the police.”

”This is one small instance of repression and injustice in a global conflict between the forces of neo-liberalism and those who wish to see a more just, humane and sustainable world,” said Martin Shaw. “From the 29 police officers currently standing trial for acts of appalling brutality at the summit in Genoa, to the massive display of military force used recently against the protesters at Gleneagles in Scotland, the G8 is having to use enormous amounts of force to protect itself against the ever increasing amounts of people that challenge its legitimacy.”

The verdict also means that there is little possibility of any compensation for the climbers. Martin Shaw, an electrician by trade, has been unable to continue his work due to the injuries that he sustained.