Racism and xenophobia
In January, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance published a report on his visit to Switzerland in 2006. He concluded that the lack of relevant comprehensive national legislation and the lack of a coherent national policy to address racism and xenophobia posed a major obstacle to the effectiveness of the fight against racism. The report recommended that the Swiss authorities prepare a comprehensive political strategy to combat racism and xenophobia and highlighted the need for the government to oppose and condemn all racist and xenophobic political platforms. It also recommended that the Swiss authorities establish an independent mechanism to investigate allegations of racism and xenophobia.
The Swiss People’s Party provoked controversy with its federal election campaign, which was widely considered to promote racist and discriminatory ideas. On 21 October the election result increased the Swiss People’s Party’s representation in parliament. The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism and the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants sent a joint letter to the Swiss government asking for an official explanation for the Swiss People’s Party campaign posters, which showed white sheep kicking a black sheep off the Swiss flag. In its response, the Federal Council stated that it would not tolerate any form of racism but highlighted the importance of freedom of expression, particularly in the context of political debate, and stated that it was up to the courts to determine if the clause of the Penal Code against racism (the “anti-racism norm”) had been infringed.
Police and security forces
Human rights violations allegedly committed by law enforcement officers and their subsequent impunity continued to be reported. Insufficient training on multiculturalism and the lack of a system of independent and impartial mechanisms to investigate allegations of human rights violations were criticized. In response, some cantons and towns took measures to improve training and issue new protocols concerning police interventions.
Migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers
Following the entry into force of new asylum legislation adopted in 2006, a Swiss non-governmental organization, the Swiss Refugee Council, announced that many asylum-seekers were denied access to the asylum procedure on the grounds that they lacked identity documents. Non-governmental organizations working with asylum-seekers reported that under the new legislation, rejected asylum-seekers – including families – who were having their application reconsidered had been told to leave their homes and live in a special residence while they awaited the decision on their case.
On 17 December the National Council (one of the houses of parliament) approved a decision to authorize the use of electro-shock (taser) weapons and police dogs during the forcible expulsion of foreign nationals. The decision was condemned by human rights organizations. Parliament will take a final decision on the text in 2008.
Violence against women
On 1 June a new law came into force granting greater protection to victims of domestic violence. However, migrant victims of domestic violence continued to be at risk of losing their residence rights if they cease cohabiting with a violent partner. Victims of human trafficking can be given a temporary residence permit for the duration of any criminal procedure in which they testify, but lose the right to remain when the procedure ends.