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Swiss racism on the rise: human rights chief

Published: 29 Mar 2012 10:06 GMT+02:00
Updated: 29 Mar 2012 09:48 GMT+02:00

Switzerland's government needs to do much more to tackle rising racism and xenophobia, a Commissioner from the European Council on Human Rights said in a letter to the Swiss foreign ministry.

The ECHR Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg sent his strongly worded letter earlier this month to Swiss foreign minister Didier Burkhalter.

“Manifestations of racism and xenophobia appear to be on the rise in Switzerland. Disturbing political campaigns with aggressive, insulting slogans against foreigners are tendencies of great concern,” the letter read.

Hammarberg said that he recognized “the value and importance of an open political debate”, but went on to say that freedom of expression should not be absolute.

“It can and at times must be restricted by the authorities in order to safeguard the human rights and fundamental freedoms of others,” he said.

A cause for concern, the Commissioner also noted that “political discourse of xenophobic and racist nature is... not criminally sanctioned by the courts”, and he called for an overhaul of the Swiss criminal law “in order to put an end to impunity for xenophobic and racist public discourse.”

Hammarberg went on to say that discrimination laws also needed to be strengthened to protect not only the rights of non-nationals, but also of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

“Switzerland’s human rights protection system would greatly benefit from the establishment of Ombudspersons in all cantons, complemented by a Federal Ombudsperson with a coordinative function and a long awaited National Human Rights Institution”, the Commissioner recommended.

The letter also raised concerns about the recent move to restrict migrants’ abilities to include family members in their applications, making family reunification even harder than it previously has been.

Burkhalter replied on Wednesday, thanking the Commissioner for his comments, promising that the comments would be given close consideration by the relevant bodies of authority.

He reiterated the government’s commitment to tackling racism, and he confirmed that the compatibility of certain popular initiatives with human rights legislation was under review.

He also replied that the Federal Constitution already guards against discrimination on the grounds of a person's chosen lifestyle, and that respect for family life is also taken into consideration when considering migrants’ applications.

Lyssandra Sears (news@thelocal.ch)

Your comments about this article

2012-06-13 19:34:46 by Justin Case
Welcome to the land of xenophobia, racism and active, blatent and open discrimination. We will be choosing our level of discrimination today based on; - your skin color, - your ethnicity, - your family name, - your lack of ability to speak perfect French AND/OR perfect German, - your nationality - the tone of your voice - your hairstyle - the fact you are unemployed - the fact your are here where only TRUE REAL SWISS people should be living. We reserve the right to treat you like 3rd class or 4th class human beings (refer to the above points for further clarification/information) We reserve the right to deny you common respect. We also reserve the right to consider you ignorant and uneducated based on your lack of conforming with our ideals. Our ideals consist of the following facts; - We abide my medieval religious and simple rules of segregation - What we dont wish to understand is worthless to us - We do not live in a Nation but a police state - By act of law we are not a nation but a confederation of states, hence - We have no common identity - We have no common language - We dislike everyone equally and are not discriminatory in our sense of dislike. - Foreigners are here to serve our needs, when those needs have been fulfilled, we reserve the right to discard you like yesterdays trash, unless of course you can pay us an enormous amount of money to buy our "little red book" then we will tolerate your presence. In front of the media we will profess to take a neutral stance on humanitarian and political grounds, this should be understood to mean, we just wish to be left alone by the rest of the world and be able to equally profit from one and all. We like to think and believe that we are efficient and never miss an opportunity to present ourselves in this light, however, we will choose to overlook and hide the corruption, stealing, backstabbing, bureaucratic inefficiencies and financial failures from the eyes of the world. Welcome to Switzerland. But please dont forget to leave us alone.
2012-05-12 07:48:10 by slobo
If you are not true to your own Country and Culture, then you are a traitor to your race! All others who imigrate must make an effort to mirror the society that they have chosen to move in to. Otherwise. there will be a back lash from the locals. It is wrongly called "racism". What it really is, is: "Hey, you moved to Switzerland, and, do not desire to be Swiss like me?" Well then, get out! Go back to whence you came! There is nothing wrong with this attitude.
2012-04-25 00:22:41 by nathan45
People have the right to have these anti immigration opinions. If people want there country to be for there own people there is nothing wrong with that. Just because the media is largely liberal and left leaning does not mean people on the right are wrong or bad in any way. If the SVP is in power people obviously don't feel that forcing multiculturalism on the population is the right thing to do.
2012-04-17 11:58:19 by asteriks
Hammarberg said very good, fascists hide themselves behind free speech. Free speech doesn't mean that hate speech is allowed. He just forgot to mention and other countries like Denmark which is the same as Swiss.
2012-04-03 01:08:08 by Global Macro
Hammarberg is a liar. Although Hammarberg said he “recognized the value and importance of an open political debate,” his entire letter was directed toward stifling debate. He does not respect open debate or freedom of speech of any sort. Hammarberg’s goal, like many of the left, is statism. They want to pervert the understanding of “basic human rights” to abridge human rights except when it serves their left wing political agenda. There is no human right that is more essential to a free and open society than is freedom of speech and expression. In this article there was not a single example of an abuse of freedom of speech. Although he alleges that he has observed “disturbing political campaigns with aggressive, insulting slogans against foreigners, he does not cite one single example of an abuse of freedom of expression that, if the discrimination laws were properly crafted, should be sanctioned. Furthermore, is the standard that citizens of Switzerland should enjoy freedom of speech only if the speech is not “disturbing, aggressive, and insulting”? That would be freedom of speech at all.
2012-03-30 22:19:56 by Garryladouceur
Hammarberg said that he recognized “the value and importance of an open political debate”, but went on to say that freedom of expression should not be absolute. “It can and at times must be restricted by the authorities in order to safeguard the human rights and fundamental freedoms of others,” he said. The restriction of rights to protect rights strikes me as an excessive response to the posters we sometimes see along our roadway. Most of these signs are simply illegal and through obvious untruth are meant to manipulate sentiment and not convey a useful message. The current regime of laws in Switzerland is sufficient to deal with these issues. It is simply that no one has sufficient courage to challenge the people who make these signs. As in the Coir posters in those UK, the red and white colour of these posters as well as their design are problematic. Coir was attacked in the UK for using posters that have obvious nazi symbolism for example. In the minaret ban, Oskar stated that the minaret was a political symbol and not part of the mosque. A mosque is a complex idea and includes, as do many christian and jewish places of worship, towers, gardens, domes, chapels, choirs, entries exits and even use the topography to add to their sacred message. The wonderful church at Ronchamps takes from the minaret and dome in its design and the minaret towers are architecturally important in designs of domes for example, for they allow the domes to appear to float as is the case in Ronchamps or the great Mosque in istanbul. The posters therefore lie as the politicians lied in their message regarding minarets for example by saying the minaret had no religious significance. The latest posters detailing invasion by immigrants are also false. Statistically, the rate of muslim immigration is actually dropping. Much of our immigration is in fact from Italy with increases from the Americas and Asia.
2012-07-30 22:17:29 by Mokumanu
And he sports a mohawk cut. Talk about confused. Although the context in which he used the word "mongoloid" was clearly, negative; the Mongols once ruled the largest contiguous land empire in human history.
2012-08-03 14:30:42 by smeghead
This is normal, unemployment is high, firms still want cheap imergration, goverment is hopeless to do anything, as for asylem seekers, it's about time other countries helped out, like china japan isreal south america etc etc. not just the west . so with all this you get people beliving what the far right say, human stupidity, their is no end to it.
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