Update: 04.08.2010

Expulsion initiative faces counter proposal

Swiss voters will have to decide on the expulsion initiative of the SVP although it constitutes a severe violation of international law. Along with a counter proposal which does not propose such far-reaching measures and is more in line with international law but is still discriminating and creating a two-tier justice in which foreign criminals and their families are judged more severely than Swiss criminals.

«A choice between plague and cholera»

On 10 June 2010, the counter proposal against the SVP expulsion initiative passed through parliament. While the Council of States decided quite clearly in favour of the proposal (35 yes against 6 no votes), the decision in the National Council was considerably closer: 93 of the Councillors approved of the proposal, 88 were against it and 6 members abstained from voting. The counter proposal was launched by the CVP (Christian Democratic Party) and the FDP (Liberal Party) as a measure against a renewed success of the SVP, as in the vote on the construction on minarets half a year before. As Maria Roth-Bernasconi, MOP of the SP (Social Democratic Party) from Geneva, said during the first reading of the issue in the National Council, this resulted in choosing between the plague and cholera since both initiative and counter proposal were fuelling xenophobia. But all the same for her the counter proposal posed a minor problem.

The counter proposal picks up the call for a stricter expulsion practice with foreign criminals. In addition, it includes the clause that severe statutory offences, such as murder, wilful killing or rape shall not only lead to prosecution and prison sentences but also to expulsion. Compared to the initiative the text of the counter proposal also includes grievous bodily harm and economic offences in the catalogue, as well as the approach that it is not the kind of offence but its severity that decide on the measures taken. Parts of the left finally voted for the counter proposal, in particular because it also includes an article on integration. This article forms the basis for a stronger involvement of the federal authorities and the harmonisation of the integration policies in the cantons – a target the SP has been propagating for several years.

Initiative violates the principle of non-refoulment

Foreign nationals that were sentenced because of certain offences or commit social benefit fraud are to loose all rights of stay in Switzerland and be expelled. This is the aim of the initiative in short, launched in 2008 by an organisation harbouring several notable exponents of the SVP. The initiative not only violates the ban on non-refoulment but also other issues of issues of international law. In general, there now is a clear shift towards initiatives which can not be implemented according to the letter because they collide with issues of international law. Even though it appears that the SVP wants to give the electorate the impression of protecting direct democracy, in reality it helps discrediting it.

“Unconstitutional, undemocratic and disgraceful”

Swiss legal experts have been voicing their concern about the lawfulness of the initiative. A good example therefore is the Biel Declaration by the Club Hélvetique of 6 March 2010: “It would be unconstitutional, undemocratic and disgraceful to declare the initiative as valid. According to the initiative, if certain foreign persons commit certain (clearly defined) crimes they lose “all” their right of abode in Switzerland and are expelled even if in their home country they could be exposed to torture. This is a severe violation of international law. For this reason the expulsion initiative is unconstitutional under prevailing law”. Another widely heard criticism is that the initiative does not take into consideration the principle of proportionality.

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