ECHR finds Switzerland in violation of human rights in racial profiling case News
ECHR finds Switzerland in violation of human rights in racial profiling case

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found Switzerland guilty of three human rights violations Tuesday.

The ECHR determined that Swiss courts failed to adequately address the question of whether racial profiling was at play when police subjected Mohamed Shee Wa Baile, a Swiss national, to an identity check at Zürich station while on his way to work. He refused to present his identity papers, believing the check was a case of racial profiling

According to the report filed by the police officer concerned, police stopped Wa Baile due to his suspicious behavior. “He looked away when he found out I was a policeman and that he wanted to pass by me,” the officer noted. The officer suspected a possible infringement of the Swiss Federal Act on Foreigners Nationals and Integration. Wa Baile asserts that police did not subject any other individual to an identity check, and he received no answer to his questions about why he was being checked.

Wa Baile was subsequently ordered to pay a fine of 100 Swiss Francs (CHF) for refusing to comply with the police’s injunctions and 150 CHF in procedural costs. Swiss courts upheld the fine, asserting that even if the subsequent court deemed the police check illegal, compliance was still mandatory under Swiss law. However, the ECHR ruling contested this stance, highlighting a failure to effectively examine the claim of discrimination based on skin color.

The court found Switzerland in violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Article 8 (right to respect for private life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. Additionally, the court found a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) since Wa Baile’s claims had not been effectively addressed.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) previously expressed concerns over the persistence of racial profiling in Switzerland and the absence of laws prohibiting this. This was considered in the judgment by the ECHR.

Amnesty International Switzerland’s Legal Advisor Alicia Giraudel stated that “the European authorities have repeatedly failed to recognise or combat the longstanding and systemic issue of ethnic profiling,” pointing to a larger issue in Europe. Amnesty International submitted a third-party intervention in the case and called for Switzerland to revise its law, guidelines, and practices to prevent ethnic profiling.