Head of state and government
Micheline Calmy-Rey
Death penalty
abolitionist for all crimes
7.7 million
Life expectancy
82.3 years
Under-5 mortality
4.4 per 1,000

Discriminatory legislation against Muslims remained in place or was proposed at federal and cantonal levels. Excessive use of force during forced deportations and inadequate assistance provided to rejected asylum-seekers caused serious concerns.


The Criminal Code continued to lack a definition of torture fully consistent with international law. The Swiss Centre of Expertise for Human Rights, the national human rights institution, began its work. The International Convention against enforced disappearance was signed but not ratified. In December, the National Council decided to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

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Legislation failed to prevent discrimination, and in some cases promoted it. In May, the UN Human Rights Committee raised concerns about under-representation of ethnic minorities in the police force, inadequate racism prevention measures and lack of legal protections for victims of discrimination.

In October, the Federal Commission against Racism criticized a parliamentary proposal in Zug “to create an asylum-seeker-free zone”.

In May, cantonal authorities in Ticino began examining a popular initiative seeking to amend their constitution to prohibit the wearing of full-face veils.

The ban on minarets remained in force during 2011.

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Refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants

NGOs continued to raise concerns about the treatment of asylum-seekers, including the use of force and restraints during forced deportations.

  • One man was ill-treated at Zurich airport during a forced deportation of 19 Nigerians in July. No independent inquiry was conducted.
  • A criminal investigation into the death of Joseph Ndukaku Chiakwa, a Nigerian national who died at Zurich airport during a mass deportation in March 2010, was ongoing.
  • The family of Samson Chukwu, who died during deportation in 2001, were still awaiting compensation.

“Emergency assistance” remained inadequate and often left rejected asylum-seekers destitute or vulnerable. Reception facilities continued to be inadequate.

In December, an external investigation, announced in August by the Federal Department of Justice and Police, into the apparent failure to process between 7,000 and 10,000 asylum claims made between 2006 and 2008 by Iraqi nationals at Swiss embassies in Egypt and Syria, concluded that the Federal Office for Migration’s actions had been unlawful. However, the investigation did not consider disciplinary sanctions or criminal proceedings to be viable actions.

In December, the Council of States approved legislation which would accelerate the asylum procedure and remove the right to claim asylum at Swiss embassies. The legislation also called for conscientious objectors seeking protection to be refused asylum and given temporary residence permits instead. It remained subject to approval by the National Council.

In December, the National Commission for the Prevention of Torture, the national preventive mechanism, raised concerns about disproportionate use of force and restraint techniques during forced deportations.

At the end of the year, the referendum known as the “Deportation Initiative”, passed in 2010, had not been implemented. It had called for a constitutional amendment to allow the automatic deportation of foreign nationals convicted of specified criminal offences.

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Violence against women and girls

In September, Parliament introduced a law to allow up to 10 years’ imprisonment for female genital mutilation, even when the act was perpetrated in another country where the practice of female genital mutilation was legal.

In September, the National Council refused to modify immigration legislation which had been criticized by two UN committees for failing to protect migrant women who remained in abusive relationships for fear of losing their residence permits.

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