Expert group criticises systemic racism in Switzerland

An anti-racism demonstration in Biel in September 2020. Keystone / Adrian Reusser

Black people in Switzerland face everyday discrimination as well serious racial profiling by the police, a United Nations working group has said.

This content was published on January 26, 2022 - 19:08

After a 10-day fact-finding mission, the group said in a statementExternal link on Wednesday that it was “concerned about the prevalence of racial discrimination and the human rights situation of people of African descent in Switzerland”.

A 59-point document outlined the various problems faced by black people in the country, including what it called “shocking reports of police brutality and the expectation of impunity for police misconduct, extending over decades”.

They mentioned specifically the case of Nzoy Roger Wilhelm, shot dead by police in Morges last year, as well as several other cases representing what they called racial profiling, and for which centralised data and an independent review mechanism is lacking.

The group also said that the case of Brian K – a highly mediatised violent repeat offender held in solitary confinement in Zurich – was a “stark example of systemic racism in Switzerland”.

It also criticised an “insufficient recognition” of Swiss ties to colonialism and the African slave trade, which it says is directly connected to the country’s modern wealth, notably through the profits made by banks and industries linked to slavery in the past.

From January 17-26, the members of the group travelled across Switzerland and met with people of African descent, as well as with politicians, police representatives, and civil society groups.

And despite the majority of the statement being negative, the group listed several “good practices and positive steps” taken to combat racism, including moves to create an operational national human rights institution.

Their final report will be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in September 2022.

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