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Human rights Swiss parliament's move to deport terrorists draws criticism

Fabio Regazzi in parliament

Christian Democratic parliamentarian Fabio Regazzi is one of the promoters of the controversial motion. 

(© Keystone/Alessandro Della Valle)

A Swiss parliamentary decision seeking automatic deportation of convicted terrorists even if their lives are at risk has met widespread criticism.

The human rights organisation Amnesty International described Tuesday’s decision to ignore international safeguards and practices as unacceptable.

“It will send an extremely negative signal to the international community,” said a statement from the organisation.

The so called "non-refoulement principle" obliges states not to force refugees or asylum seekers to return to a country where there are serious reasons to believe they may be persecuted.

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper comments that parliament would be better off respecting the rule of law.

“The strength of parliament should not be based on gut feeling but on law. Not out of respect for terrorists but for reasons of self-respect and our own legal principles.”


The parliamentary decision violates the European human rights convention and the Swiss constitution, writes the newspaper in an editorial.

“The decision is not worthy of a country with the rule of law. We are about to become the accomplices of inhumane regimes.”

The Le Temps daily newspaper published an interview with a spokeswoman of the Swiss chapter of Amnesty International, Nadia Boehlen. She warns that the Swiss government now faces a dilemma with a bill that cannot be applied.

She also points out that it is a striking contradiction for the government to deport terrorists but be unwilling to repatriate Swiss citizens involved in terrorist activities abroad, according to a government decision earlier this month.

The Blick newspaper accuses the supporters of the motion in the Senate of pandering to populist ideas. “In the run-up to parliamentary elections, the senators put populism before real solutions.”

Christian Democrat motion

The Senate on Tuesday followed the House of Representatives in calling on the government to present a bill for the expulsion of convicted terrorists. The motion by a representative of the centrist Christian Democratic Party refers to a case of several Iraqis found guilty of membership of the banned Islamic State group. Despite their conviction in 2016, they are still in Switzerland.

During Tuesday’s debate, Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter failed to convince the senators that other planned legal amendments are more suitable to tackle the issue.

Voters in 2010 approved an initiative calling for the automatic deportation of criminal foreigners, taking into account basic human rights under the non-refoulement principle.

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