Amnesty slams Swiss for human rights violations

Amnesty slams Swiss for human rights violations
Entrance ot Champ-Dollon prison. Photo: RTS
Amnesty International slammed Switzerland on Wednesday for ill treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, inhumane conditions for inmates of a Geneva prison and inadequate measures against racial discrimination.

Amnesty’s charges appeared on Wednesday in its annual report for 2014-15, which underlined concerns raised in the past year by the Swiss National Commission for the Prevention of Torture (NCPT) and various NGOs.

The NCPT said people facing deportation faced excessive use of force when being moved from detention centres for asylum seekers to airports.

The commission said police force practices varied from one canton to another and that uniform national standards were needed.

The report highlighted problems with forced deportations, citing a case of two Tamil asylum seekers from Switzerland who were sent to Sri Lanka in 2013 only to end up in detention there before being transferred to a “rehabilitation” camp.

Amnesty noted that after temporarily halting forced returns to Sri Lanka, the Federal Office for Migration in May last year announced it would review cases of asylum seekers from that country whose applications were rejected, but resumed deportations.

The report also drew attention to inhumane conditions at Geneva’s Champ-Dollon prison, which as of November 2014 held 811 inmates “in a space designed to accommodate 376”.

Switzerland’s supreme court ruled a year ago that two prisoners held at Champ-Dollon were subjected to conditions that breached the European Convention on Human Rights.

The two prisoners “were held consecutively for three months, confined for 23 hours per day with four other detainees in a cell measuring 23 square metres designed for three inmates, without access to any activities”.

Disturbances at the prison in February 2014 resulted in injuries to eight guards and about 30 prisoners.

The Amnesty report also zeroes in on racial discrimination concerns in Switzerland.

A committee of the UN Human Rights Council has urged the Swiss government to “introduce a clear and comprehensive definition of direct and indirect racial discrimination covering all fields of law”, it said.

The report referred to a ruling in November 2015 by the administrative court of the canton of Saint Gallen that found a school ban on a Muslim student wearing a headscarf as “disproportionate”.

Globally, Amnesty International derided what it called a “devastating year for those seeking to stand up fro human rights and for those caught up in the suffering of war zones”.

Governments pay lip service to the importance of protecting civilians but the world’s politicians “have miserably failed to protect those in greatest need,” Salil Shetty, the organization’s secretary general said in the report.

That needs to change, he said, noting that civilians have borne the brunt of conflicts around the world.

The report looks at rights violations in a such hotspots as Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

“We must hope that, looking backward to 2014 in the years to come, what we lived through will be seen as the ultimate low point from which we rose up and created a better future“, Shetty said.

For more on the Amnesty Report, click here.






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