Update: 09.08.2007

Anti-racism law: controversial statements by the Swiss minister of justice

Early October 2006, the Swiss Justice Minister, Christoph Blocher, attacked Swiss anti-racism laws whilst visiting Turkey. "Article 216 bis of the Swiss penal code gives me a real headache," the Justice Minister told the media, referring to Swiss anti-racism legislation adopted in 1994 to prevent revisionist views about the Holocaust. The minister’s remarks met with sharp criticism in Switzerland. Swiss cabinet said it regrets comments made by Justice Minister. A change in law, however, does not seem probable. One could rather assume that the Justice Minister took the opportunity to launch the campaign for the 2007 federal election on behalf of his own party, the rightwing Swiss People’s Party. 

He will examine the situation and look for any possible changes in the law, for which a working group has already been set up at the Federal Department of Justice and Police, Blocher told his counterpart in Turkey and the media in Switzerland. He argued that the anti-racism law was in some respect in conflict with freedom of expression in Switzerland. This position is not shared by other members of the government: law expert Marcel Niggli reminded that racism is not protected by freedom of speech, as has already been decided in many cases by the European Court of Human Rights.

Long-standing diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Turkey have been strained for a few years. In 2005, Swiss authorities launched a criminal investigation into the historian Yusuf Halacoglu and the politician Dogu Perinçek for allegedly making comments in Switzerland denying the 1915 Armenian massacre. Under Swiss law, any act of denying, belittling or justifying genocide is a violation of the country’s anti-racism legislation.

© humanrights.ch / MERS - Hallerstr. 23 - CH-3012 Bern - Tel. +41 31 302 01 61