Statement of the National Center of the Human Rights regarding the referendum in Switzerland on the banning of the construction of minarets

The National centre for Human rights considers the results of the Swiss referendum that imposed a constitutional ban on the construction of minarets as being extremely odd and objectionable. The Centre stresses that this ban contradicts totally the international commitments that are stipulated in the international covenants of human rights, that emphasize the freedom of belief and the exercise of religious rites, as being absolute universal rights that are not subject to divisibility or infringement. This is particularly so regarding article (18) in both the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights and the International Covenant for civil and Political Rights; and the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Fanaticism and Discrimination that are Based on Religion or Belief; and the 1995 Declaration of the Principles of Tolerance; and the 1989 Vienna Final Document, and the 2005 International Convention Regarding Cultural Diversity, and the 2005 International Initiative for the Alliance of Civilizations.

The National Center for Human Rights views the banning of the construction of minarets as embodying a case of distortion of the images of religions, and represents unjustified bigotry and discrimination against the Islamic house of worship which were targeted by the banning alone among the other religions. The banning provides a gateway to incitement of acts of violence and hatred of foreigners… which goes against resolution (84) of the year (2000) of the United Nation Committee of Human Rights regarding the prevention of the distortion of the images of religions. The resolution has stressed that " All Nations have pledged the selves-under the Charter of the United Nations, to enhance and encourage the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, and observed these worldwide, without any distinction on the basis of race, sex, language or religion, etc ... and that discrimination against human beings on the basis of religion or belief constitutes an insult to the dignity of man, and a denial of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and a violation of human rights. It called on the Governments of States to take all appropriate measures to fulfill their international obligations in confronting fanaticism and violence on the basis of religion or belief, including the exercise of religious discrimination against women, and the desecration of religious places.

The National Center for Human Rights stresses that the Swiss State, in enforce the results of this referendum, feeds hatred and fanaticism, and goes against the culture of tolerance and co-existence, and violates the traditions of cultural and religious pluralism on which it was based as a neutral state that guards the international human rights law and the international humanitarian law, and priding itself on seeking to assure peace among the different religions.

The National Center for Human Rights would like to remind that the respect for, and the protection of the values of human rights constitute the mainstay of democracy and the rule of law. The Swiss referendum was of democratic atmosphere in form, but did not meet the essence of democracy, since democracy involves the rejection of tyranny and hatred and the respect for the standards stipulated in the international instruments regarding human rights; in order to prevent the availing of anther opportunity for the various forms of fascism and Nazism to re-appear once again. The results of the referendum portrays democracy as a being a mechanism that belittles human rights, which humans the image of democracy in many non-democratic states.

The National Center for Human Rights would like to re-stress that the freedom of belief and the exercise of the religious rites are basic rights where no referendum can be made regarding them. The banning decision does not only go against the commitment of Switzerland under the international human rights law, but contradicts the spirit of the Swiss Constitution the guaranteed the freedom of faith and worship to all citizens, without exception or discrimination. It also goes against the established conscience of humanity regarding the respect for freedom of belief.

The National Center for Human Rights warns that this ban can incite European and non-European states to take similar decisions to limit the religious freedoms of its inhabitants, and persecute the minorities therein, and deprive them of their religious rights that has been guaranteed by the international human rights law… which endangers international peace and security as a result of the enhancement of the culture of frustration, aggressiveness and fanaticism instead of the culture of peace, openness and the acceptance and appreciation of the other.

The National Center for Human Rights calls on the International Legal organizations, and civil society associations Switzerland and other European states, to intensify their legal efforts to uncover the negative aspects and the violations resulting from this referendum, by resorting the Concerned Courts in human rights, and specifically the high Swiss federal court, and the European court of human rights and the relevant United Nations mechanism so as to compel the Swiss government to respect the humanitarian covenants that it had signed and the implementation of its undertakings vis-à-vis the human rights charter. It is to be noted that the largest party of the Swiss parliament, the rightist Swiss peoples party, has proposed the referendum under the pretext of the prevention of the Islamization of the society, Since Islam is the most religion that is spreadind among the Swiss (people) where moslims constitute around 4.5% of the population. More than 57% voted, on 29 November 2009, in favour of the proposal calling for the banning of the construction of minarets. What is to be noted is that there are only four mosques with minarets in Switzerland, and that all requests to build minarets has been rejected during the last years.