The Council of Europe’s human rights chief has called for an overhaul of Swiss anti-discrimination law and policy.
Intolerance and racism are “dangerously on the rise”, the commissioner for human rights, Thomas Hammarberg, said after a four-day review of Swiss policies and practices.
The review was part of the Council of Europe’s ongoing assessments of the human rights situation in member states. The last such Swiss review was in 2004 and this time around it paid particular attention to how Switzerland was fighting racism and xenophobia.
“There is a clear need of a new, comprehensive anti-discrimination law, coupled by an independent and effective mechanism of supervision, redress and prevention of human rights violations,” said Hammarberg at the close of a series of talks with government, watchdogs and civil society.
To this end, he recommended strengthening the Federal Commission against Racism and setting up ombudsmen in each canton. There were still gaps in Swiss law when it came to protecting vulnerable people from discrimination, he said.
If Switzerland wanted to meet European and international standards for human rights, “vigorous and concerted efforts” were needed, he warned.
As evidence of the growing intolerance and racism he pointed to the “frequency of anti-migrant public manifestations by some major political forces”.
In particular he singled out the rightwing Swiss People’s Party’s controversial but successful initiatives to ban the construction of minarets and automatically expel foreign criminals, saying they would “target and stigmatise migrant communities”.
“They raise serious issues of compatibility with human rights standards, notably those of the European Convention on Human Rights,” he noted.