Calling someone a “foreign pig” and “filthy asylum seeker” is an insult but does not violate Swiss anti-racist legislation, the country’s highest court has ruled in a judgment published on Friday.
The Federal Court had been considering an appeal by a policeman against a suspended fine imposed by a court in Basel for using the words to an Algerian whom he had detained on suspicion of bag-snatching.
The incident occurred at the Basel Watch Fair in April 2007. The suspect had been handcuffed, and when the policeman was going through his papers and discovered that he was an asylum seeker he used the words in the presence of numerous bystanders.
The court found that the terms did not violate the anti-racist law because they were not directed at a specific ethnic group or religion. It also said that using the word “pig” (Sau-) or “filthy” (Dreck-) followed by mention of a person’s nationality was not a violation of the law either.
The two prefixes have long been used in the German-speaking world as terms of abuse, the court said. Although they are insulting, they cannot be regarded as an “attack on human dignity”, as defined by the law.
As long as the expressions target individuals, third parties would simply see them as a “somewhat crude” insult motivated by xenophobia, it said.
The court described the insults as “out of order and unacceptable”. It is now up to the Basel court to decide whether to bring charges against the policeman in this connection.
The deputy president of the Federal Commission against Racism, Sabine Simkhovitch-Dreyfus, told the Swiss News Agency that the commission was worried by the ruling that "pig" and "filthy" were not covered by the anti-racism law. She said that this led to a "trivialisation" of expressions of a racist nature.
A report by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) presented earlier this week called for the Swiss to launch national awareness-raising campaigns that reach deep into rural areas to counter negative perceptions of foreigners.
“While positive measures made by Switzerland were welcome, an impression persisted that racial discrimination was not being dealt with at the same level as gender and other types of discrimination,” the UN rapporteur said.
swissinfo.ch and agencies