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Amnesty criticises poor protection at Swiss asylum centres

Around 150 activists had occupied the Mormont quarry in western Switzerland in October 2020 to protest a decision to expand the site. Police broke up the demonstration six months later and imposed prison sentences on some. Keystone / Jean-christophe Bott

Switzerland has made progress on gender equality, specifically on LGBTQI+ rights, says Amnesty International. However, the rights group criticised cases of excessive use of force at Swiss asylum centres and prison sentences for protesters.

This content was published on March 29, 2022 - 10:49
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Amnesty International’s annual reportExternal link on the state of the world’s human rights published on Tuesday paints a mixed picture of Switzerland’s human rights record over the past year. The country received praise for voting in favour of same-sex marriage as well as steps to strengthen the criminal code provisions on rape.

“We are witnessing an unprecedented mobilisation for a law that should better protect people against sexual violence,” said Alexandra Karle, director of Amnesty Switzerland, in a statement.

The rights organisation also applauded parliament’s decision last September to create a national human rights institution (NHRI) after a 20-year campaign by civil society. This is a "milestone" for human rights in Switzerland, said Karle.

Refugees and asylum seekers

However, the country was criticised several times for the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. Amnesty International’s own investigation exposed abuses by private security staff against people housed in federal asylum centres and identified systemic failures in the running of the centres. Government-commissioned investigations also found disproportionate use of force in at least three out of seven cases investigated.

Amnesty also noted a referendum vote in favour of a ban on full-face veils last year, despite concerns that it discriminated against a single religious community and violated women’s rights and freedom of religion.

The country was also criticised for prison sentences imposed on over 40 environmental activists when a protest camp was cleared last spring near Eclépens, in western Switzerland.

Around 150 activists had occupied the Mormont quarry in western Switzerland in October 2020 to protest a decision to expand the site. Police broke up the demonstration six months later and removed the protesters from the site owned by cement maker Lafarge-HolcimExternal link.

The prison sentences “unduly restricted their rights to freedom of expression, conscience and peaceful assembly,” the Amnesty report stated.

Amnesty International's annual report 2021/2022 covers 154 countries, including Switzerland. Each country is the subject of its own chapter.

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In compliance with the JTI standards

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