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UN troubled by minaret initiative

United Nations human rights specialists have expressed concerns over November's anti-minaret vote and "discriminatory" poster campaign in Switzerland.

The comments by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Committee were made in conclusions on Swiss progress in implementing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which is monitored by the body of experts.

Switzerland should "strenuously ensure respect of freedom of religion and firmly combat incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence", the committee declared.

Among other recommendations, they said the Federal Commission against Racism should be strengthened to investigate all cases of racial discrimination and incitement to national, racial or religious hatred. Otherwise, an independent mechanism able to initiate legal action should be set up.

The committee said it was also preoccupied by reports of police brutality against people arrested or detained, in particular against asylum-seekers and migrants.

It said all cantons should create an independent mechanism to investigate complaints against the police. Ethnic minorities should also be better represented in Swiss police forces, it added.

While recognising the Swiss authorities' "sustained attention" to human rights and measures undertaken since the last progress report in 2001, the body urged Switzerland to lift its remaining reservations concerning the treaty, to ratify the Optional Protocol - which establishes complaint and inquiry mechanisms - and to create a national human rights institution.

Other specific recommendations focused on better protection and support for asylum seekers, firearms, assisted suicide, combating violence against women, and compensation or reparations for forcible castrations and sterilisations conducted between 1960 and 1987.


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