Human rights commissioner Thomas Hammarberg has today highlighted his fears about a rise in racism and xenophobia in Switzerland.
The commissioner has written to Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter, Head of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, to warn against “disturbing political campaigns with aggressive, insulting slogans against foreigners.”
Hammarberg adds: “While recognising the value and importance of an open political debate, it has to be made clear that freedom of expression is not absolute: hate speech violating the rights of others is unacceptable. The Swiss criminal law needs to be overhauled in order to put an end to impunity for xenophobic and racist public discourse.”
The commissioner also expresses his fears about limits to migrants’ right to family unity and further proposals to make family reunification in Switzerland “even more difficult.”
Hammarberg declares that such action undermines national integration polices.
“The principle of respect for the family life of migrants, as reflected in the European Convention on Human Rights and the Court’s case law, has for decades been part of the Swiss integration policies,” the commissioner writes. “It would be unfortunate if this positive tradition now were overturned.”
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