Swiss voters on Sunday approved [press release] by a 52.9 percent majority a "Deportation Initiative" [text, in French] that would amend the Swiss Constitution to allow the immediate deportation of foreigners who commit certain criminal offenses. The list of crimes range from serious offenses such as murder, rape and drug trafficking, to nonviolent crimes, including social security fraud and false claims for welfare benefits. A counter-proposal, which included stricter penalties for foreigners who commit crimes and the option for a judge to review each deportation case, failed to garner majority support. The initiative, promoted by the Swiss People's Party (SVP) [party website, in French], has been met with strong criticism from the international community, which argues the initiative violates international law, specifically a 1999 Bilateral Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a statement urging the Swiss government not to enforce [press release] the provisions of the initiative. AI Europe and Central Asia Deputy Programme Director John Dalhuisen said the initiative violates human rights:
If put into practice, the amendment to the constitution risks violating Switzerland's obligations under international law, in particular the obligation not to return anyone to a country where they would be at risk of torture or other forms of persecution. Switzerland cannot, and must not, allow popular -- and xenophobic -- initiatives to override its obligations under international law. Switzerland should also grant persons subject to deportation the opportunity to appeal any decision.The Swiss government will now begin the process of refining the initiative [WP report] to comply with international treaties, and Parliament will vote to implement the initiative into law.
The controversial vote comes one year after Swiss voters passed another SVP initiative to ban the construction of minarets [JURIST report], a type of tower associated with Islamic mosques. The ban was opposed by the international community [JURIST report] and angered Muslims around the world. In March, the UN Human Rights Council [official website] adopted a resolution [text, PDF; JURIST report] condemning international religious discrimination and xenophobia. The resolution specifically criticized Switzerland's ban on the construction of minarets. In December 2009, a Swiss Muslim launched a legal challenge [JURIST report] to the ban in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website]. It has been argued that the ban violates Articles 9, 13 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF].