Annual Report: Switzerland 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Switzerland 2010

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Head of state and government Hans-Rudolf Merz
Death penalty abolitionist for all crimes
Population 7.6 million
Life expectancy 81.7 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 6/5 per 1,000

There was concern at a rise in racism and xenophobia in public discourse. Ill-treatment by law enforcement officials was alleged, including apparently racially motivated incidents. Violence against women and human trafficking continued despite legislative measures to combat them.

Racism and discrimination

Voters in a referendum held on 29 November supported a constitutional amendment to ban the construction of minarets. During the referendum campaign, the Muslim minority was severely stigmatized by political propaganda expressed by defenders of the ban. Responding to the referendum, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) expressed concern that "an initiative that infringes human rights can be put to vote".

The ECRI's periodic report on Switzerland, published in September, expressed concern at increasingly racist and xenophobic political discourse, particularly in relation to the Swiss People's Party. It also expressed concern at the limited effectiveness of the criminal law provision against racism and called for improved training of legal professionals in its application.

The report recommended that civil and criminal laws to combat racism be enhanced, in particular by introducing a provision allowing for increased penalties for racially motivated offences.

The Commission welcomed measures to improve integration of foreign nationals. However, the report also noted widespread racial discrimination in access to services. Migrant children were particularly obstructed from accessing education. Travelling communities were not provided with sufficient appropriate transit sites and must therefore stop in places not designated for this purpose, generating tensions with local people.

Police and security forces

In October, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern about ongoing reports of police ill-treatment, in particular against asylum-seekers and migrants. The Committee called for the creation of independent mechanisms to investigate complaints against the police.

Migrants' rights, refugees and asylum-seekers

A federal law entered into force on 1 January which provides that all negative decisions on naturalization must state the reasons and be open to judicial appeal.

In October, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern that people whose asylum applications had been rejected were subjected to inadequate living conditions and lacked access to health care.

On 12 June, parliament approved an amendment to the Civil Law which prohibits Swiss nationals or legally resident non-nationals from marrying irregular migrants and rejected asylum-seekers.

At the end of the year, no final decision had been taken by the Federal Administrative Court regarding asylum appeals submitted to Switzerland in 2008 by three detainees held at the US detention centre in Guantánamo Bay. Nevertheless, the Court reversed the decision of the Migration Office on one of the detainees and sent his case back for further inquiry, stating that his defence arguments had not been properly evaluated.

In December, the Federal Council confirmed that it would grant humanitarian protection to an Uzbek detainee held at Guantánamo Bay, and that the detainee would be received by the Canton of Geneva once a memorandum of understanding had been agreed by US and Swiss authorities. At the end of the year, the Swiss government left open the possibility of accepting more Guantánamo detainees if other cantonal authorities agreed to receive them.