Case Meier v. Switzerland

Importance Nature Application Number Case language State Date (dd/mm/yyyy)
4 Judgement 10109/14 langs.en,fr Switzerland 09/02/2016

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Meier v. Switzerland - no. 10109/14

Article 4

Work required of detainees

Continuing obligation on prisoner to work after reaching retirement age: no violation


The applicant complained that despite the fact he was of retirement age he had been required to work while in detention. He complained that this requirement can be considered to be forced labour since he would have been subjected to a stricter regime of detention in retaliation for his refusal to comply with it.

First-of-all the Court observed that not only its case-law related to work in prison is scarce (§66) but it’s the very first time that it had to examine the issue of requirement to work in detention beyond the retirement age (§68). Moreover, the Court noted that the rule no. 105.2 of the Europe prison rules could not be interpreted has a prohibition for contracting States to impose a obligation to work on prisoners of retirement age to work (§78). Lastly, the Court observed that it emerged from a comparative survey covering 28 countries that there was no consensus among the member States on the issue – and concluded therefore that the Swiss authorities should enjoy a considerable margin of appreciation in the matter (§77).

Second, the Court accepted the Government’s argument that the duty of prisoners to continue working even beyond retirement age was part of the drive to reduce the harmful effects of incarceration (§73). The Court further noted that both the nature and the extent of the obligation to work were tailored to the applicant’s personal situation, abilities and state of health: the applicant had to work about three hours a day and he was not imposed to perform physical tasks (§§74-77).

As a result of the foregoing, the Court concluded that the obligation the applicant was subjected could be considered to be a “work required to be done in the ordinary course of detention” in the meaning of Article 4§3(a), and that there had been no violation of Article 4.