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RACISM

‘Foreign pig’ not racist: Switzerland’s top court

Calling someone a "foreign pig" or "dirty asylum-seeker" is insulting but is not against Switzerland's anti-racism law, the country's top court said in a ruling released on Friday.

'Foreign pig' not racist: Switzerland's top court
Photo: AFP/Getty Images

The supreme court found in favour of a police officer who had used the slurs when he arrested an Algerian suspected thief.
   
The incident took place at a trade fair in the northern city of Basel in April 2007, where the Algerian was detained for allegedly snatching a Russian man's bag.
   
After checking the suspect's identity papers, the policeman discovered that he was an asylum-seeker and proceed to insult him.
   
As a result, the officer received a suspended fine for breaking the country's anti-racism laws.
   
After the penalty was overturned by another court, the case worked its way up to the top of the Swiss justice system.
   
The Lausanne-based federal court said that while such terms were clearly insulting, they were too broad to fall foul of anti-racism rules because they did not target a particular ethnic group, race or religion.
   
It also said calling someone "dirty" — even if the individual's nationality was mentioned — was not against the anti-racism law.

The court ruling was published as the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Geneva issued its findings from a review of Switzerland's record, a regular procedure for signatory states.

CERD member Anastasia Crickley, who was in charge of the review, said of the court ruling: "It sounds to me like a very good case for the recommendation that we have made, that what's needed in Switzerland is a clear definition of direct and indirect racial discrimination and legislation."
   
She said the CERD was also concerned about referendums in Switzerland on toughening immigration and asylum rules and banning the construction of Muslim minarets.
   
On February 9th, Swiss voters narrowly approved scrapping rules that gave European Union citizens free access to their labour market after campaigners argued the neutral country was being "swamped" with immigrants.
   
"Migration laws are needed, but we're concerned at the increasingly protectionist way in which these are being encapsulated and presented, and the xenophobic tone overall that tends to be associated with them," Crickley said.

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RACISM

Switzerland sticks with mountain name despite ‘racist’ ties

A Swiss town on Wednesday refused to rename the Agassizhorn mountain despite its namesake's espousal of racist views.

Switzerland sticks with mountain name despite 'racist' ties
Switzerland's Agassizhorn. Image: Creative Commons

The 19th century Swiss geologist Louis Agassiz was known for research into fish, fossils and glaciers, but he has also been criticised in recent years for defending racist ideas.

After emigrating to the United States in 1846, Agassiz argued for racial segregation and hierarchies, and fiercely attacked Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

IN PICTURES: Powerful images from anti-racism protests across Switzerland 

But mayor of the town of Grindelwald, Beat Bucher, disagreed with those who wanted to change the peak's name, saying: “We cannot erase the stains of history.”

In a reference to the central Swiss summit, Bucher added: “It is better to accept it with its positive and negative aspects.”

The mountain peak, at just under 4,000 metres (13,000 feet) is shared by two other municipalities, Guttannen and Fieschertal, which had already rejected a bid to rename it.

A fresh effort was made after the killing in late May of George Floyd, an African American asphyxiated by a white police officer, generated a global wave of revulsion against racist symbols.

A similar push to rename the mountain was rejected in 2007. 

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