Head of state and government: Pascal Couchepin
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 7.5 million
Life expectancy: 81.3 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 6/5 per 1,000

Inadequate legislation failed to provide effective protection against discrimination. Allegations of racial discrimination, including ill-treatment, by law enforcement officials continued. Restrictive legislation violated the economic, social and cultural rights of asylum-seekers and irregular migrants.

Racism and discrimination

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) highlighted the continuing problem of discrimination in Switzerland, including the lack of adequate national and cantonal legislation prohibiting discrimination and the use of racial profiling by law enforcement agencies. The Committee also expressed concern at the continued discrimination against Roma, Sinti and Yenish communities, particularly in relation to housing and education. The Committee called for the establishment of a national human rights institution. This recommendation was reiterated during examination of Switzerland in the Universal Periodic Review process of the UN Human Rights Council. The Review also called on Switzerland to take further measures against racism and discrimination.

Police and security forces

Allegations of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials continued. CERD expressed concern at excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, in particular against black people.

An independent inquiry was launched by the cantonal department of security following police interventions during a demonstration in Basel on 26 January. The results of the inquiry criticized the failure of the police to provide demonstrators who had been arrested with adequate information on the reasons for their detention; the lack of notification to family members of detainees, including parents in the case of detained minors; and mass arbitrary arrests. In Berne, a representative of the regional government was appointed as an observer by the Chief of Police to monitor the detention conditions of demonstrators arrested during a similar police intervention on 19 January. Her report raised similar concerns to those in Basel, as well as criticizing the lack of access to food and water of demonstrators detained by the police.

Migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers

Restrictive legislation continued to violate the economic, social and cultural rights of asylum-seekers and irregular migrants, many of whom experienced extreme poverty. CERD expressed concern that the legislation may be in violation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Rejected asylum-seekers are excluded from the welfare system, resulting in marginalization and destitution.

On 18 March parliament adopted legislation authorizing the use of electro-shock weapons and police dogs during forcible expulsion of foreign nationals, which may violate Council of Europe standards on the proportionate use of force in such operations.

Violence against women and girls

Legislation introduced in 2007 to protect victims of domestic violence was inadequately implemented in some cantons. There was insufficient specialist training for police and no training for judges. Protection and counselling centres in some cantons were underfunded.

Switzerland signed the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings on 8 September.

Counter-terror and security

Applications for asylum in Switzerland were submitted by a lawyer acting on behalf of three detainees held at the US detention centre at Guantánamo Bay. The US authorities did not bring any charges against the three men, detained for over six years, and two of them had already been cleared for release. The men (nationals of Libya, Algeria and an ethnic Uighur man from China) were believed to be at risk of persecution if returned to their countries of origin. All three applications were rejected in November by the Federal Migration Office; appeals were submitted.

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