Switzerland criticised for lack of international solidarity

A boy waits to enter a bus from Kara Tepe refugee camp for the port of Mytilene, on the Greek island of Lesbos, in September Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Switzerland has been criticised by human rights organisation Amnesty International for showing too little solidarity with poorer countries, for adopting “draconian” anti-terrorism laws and for its rights-limiting response to Covid-19.

This content was published on April 7, 2021 - 12:10

“Between March and June, the government ruled by emergency powers in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, impacting a range of rights,” it wrote in its annual reportExternal link for 2020/21, published on Wednesday.

“At the start of the pandemic, the police lacked clear guidelines to implement emergency measures and disproportionately limited protesters’ right to freedom of peaceful assembly by imposing blanket bans on demonstrations in public and handing out fines in certain cantons.”

But from a human rights perspective, Amnesty regretted above all governments taking their eye off the bigger picture.

“We can only break this impasse by working together internationally. The G-20 countries and international financial institutions must offer debt cuts for the poorest countries so that they can cope with the pandemic,” said Alexandra Karle, executive director of the Swiss section of Amnesty International.

The richer countries must ensure that everyone in the world has rapid access to vaccines, free of charge, she said. “Pharmaceutical companies should share their knowledge. Switzerland, too, should show more solidarity in the pandemic and abandon its resistance to a temporary relaxation of intellectual property rules for Covid-19 vaccines.”

In its chapter on Switzerland, Amnesty International also denounced the government’s unwillingness to accept a larger number of refugees from the Greek islands, “although several major cities offered relocation places”.

The human rights organisation also criticised the “draconian” anti-terror laws passed by parliament in September, which, according to the government, aim to prevent extremist violence and organised crime, but, according to Amnesty, “pre-emptively restrict a person’s liberty without charge or trial, and include a vague and overly broad definition of ‘terrorism’”.

Better marks

It’s not all criticism, however. Amnesty also noted that parliament had voted in favour of introducing same-sex marriage. Same-sex couples will now have the same rights as heterosexual couples with the exception of certain restrictions concerning sperm donation.

In addition, hate speech legislation was extended to criminalise advocacy of hatred and discrimination based on sexual orientation, following a referendum in favour of the change.

In November the nationwide vote on the Responsible Business Initiative, which called for mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence for multinational companies doing business abroad, was rejected by the cantons, although it won the majority of the popular vote.

“This was the first time that the voters of any country had said yes to this kind of mandatory due diligence,” Amnesty said.

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