European rights court rejects appeals against Switzerland minaret ban

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on July 8 rejected two appeals from Swiss Muslims challenging Switzerland’s ban on construction of minarets. The court ruled that the appeals were inadmissible because the complaints failed to meet the requirements of Article 35 Section 3 and 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Specifically, the court found that since the appeals were only meant to challenge a constitutional provision in a general manner in Switzerland, the applicants had failed to show any specific injury. Supporters and opponents were not surprised by the ECHR’s decision. Hafid Ouardiri, one of the challengers, characterized his failed challenge as a necessary step and was encouraged by the court’s statement that the Swiss courts “would be able to would be able to examine the compatibility of a possible refusal to authorise the construction of a minaret with the European Human Rights Convention.”

Ouardiri filed his complaint in December 2009, alleging that the ban violates his rights to freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination under Articles 9, 13, and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In December 2009, a group of Swiss intellectuals called for the ban’s reversal. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has condemned the ban as a form of religious discrimination. In 2008, the Swiss government announced that Swiss nationalist parties had gathered enough signatures on their initiative against the construction of minarets to force a national referendum on whether the country’s constitution should be amended to ban the structures. The initiative was originally sponsored by the anti-immigrant Swiss People’s Party (SVP)

From Jurist, July 10. Used with permission.

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