November 29, 2006

Alarm at call for abolishment of Swiss racism law

The Democratic Union of the Centre, the right-wing party that won a majority in the last Swiss elections, has proposed to the abolishment of Switzerland’s anti-racist law, arguing it impedes freedom of speech.

The law was adopted on Jan. 1, 1995, and forbids any discrimination against a person or group on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion. It also mandates punishment for denying or attempting to justify a genocide or crime against humanity, especially the Holocaust.

The UDC holds that the law is too abstract and that Swiss do not understand what they can and cannot say in public. Maurer said his party was fighting for freedom of speech in Switzerland, and that everyone should have the right to express what they thought, even if it was not right.

Moreover, the UDC charges that the law has encouraged a passive form of racism. They say the penal law is not the best way to combat to revisionism, and that more faith should be placed in people’s ability to discern between right and wrong.

The debate on the law began after Swiss Minister of Justice Christophe Blocher, a former UDC leader, declared during a visit to Turkey that everyone has the right to an opinion and the right to express it, and that the law should be abolished.