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Switzerland Human Rights

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.

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.

Violence against women and girls

In August, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women welcomed legislation introduced to combat violence against women and human trafficking but noted the continued prevalence of these human rights abuses. The Committee also expressed concern that support services for victims of trafficking had been established only in a limited number of cantons and that legislation on protection of victims was applied inconsistently.

The Committee called for the establishment of more support services for victims of gender-based violence and action to eliminate discrimination against women of ethnic minority communities and migrant women. The UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern that the Foreign Nationals Act impedes migrant women who have been subjected to domestic violence from acquiring or renewing their residency permit after a divorce.

Switzerland Newsroom



March 10, 2016 • Press Release

Ai Weiwei, Snowden, Pussy Riot take place of online ads to protest censorship

Messages from Edward Snowden, Ai Weiwei and Pussy Riot will be broadcast across the internet by AdBlock and Amnesty International on the World Day against Cyber Censorship, 12 March 2016.

February 22, 2016 • Press Release

Amnesty International’s Annual State of the World Report Slams Governments, Including the U.S., for Global Assault on Freedoms

On the launch of its 2015 State of the World report, Amnesty International USA urged President Obama to use his last year in office to bring U.S. laws and policies in line with international human rights standards.

February 18, 2016 • Report

Amnesty International State of the World 2015-2016

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

February 18, 2016 • Press Release

Your rights in jeopardy, global assault on freedoms, warns Amnesty International

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

February 25, 2015 • Report

State of the World 2014/2015

This has been a devastating year for those seeking to stand up for human rights and for those caught up in the suffering of war zones. Governments pay lip service to the importance of protecting civilians. And yet the world's politicians have miserably failed to protect those in greatest need. Amnesty International believes that this can and must finally change.

May 29, 2013 • Report

Annual Report: Switzerland 2013

SWISS CONFEDERATION Head of state and government Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf Restrictive measures on access to asylum were adopted. Measures to limit the use of force during deportation were introduced. Police and security forces Allegations of ill-treatment by the police in the Canton of Geneva continued, including against minors, during or immediately after arrest. In October, the …

June 8, 2011 • Press Release

Guatemalan former officials must be brought to justice over killings

Austria and Switzerland must ensure that former high-ranking Guatemalan officials face justice for serious allegations of involvement in extrajudicial executions, Amnesty International said today.

June 8, 2011 • Press Release

Guatemalan former officials must be brought to justice over killings

Austria and Switzerland must ensure that former high-ranking Guatemalan officials face justice for serious allegations of involvement in extrajudicial executions, Amnesty International said today.

March 27, 2011 • Press Release

Switzerland: Amnesty International Calls on Swiss Government to Investigate President George W. Bush

Amnesty International today called on the Swiss authorities to open a criminal investigation against former U.S. President...

March 27, 2011 • Press Release

Switzerland: Amnesty International Calls on Swiss Government to Investigate President George W. Bush

Amnesty International today called on the Swiss authorities to open a criminal investigation against former U.S. President...