GENEVA (Sep. 29)
After months of anticipation, Swiss voters narrowly have approved legislation that will make it a crime to discriminate against ethnic groups or incite racial hatred.
Final results from the Sept. 25 referendum indicated that 54.6 percent of those voting approved the legislation, while 45.4 percent voted against it. Approximately 45 percent of eligible Swiss voters turned out for the referendum.
Swiss legislators passed the law in June 1993, but a drive by right-wing groups succeeded in putting the measure to a popular vote.
The law was based on a 1965 U.N. resolution on racial discrimination that has already been ratified by more than 130 countries.
The law forbids public attempts to incite racial hatred or discrimination and also makes it a crime to issue public denials of the Holocaust. As a result, Holocaust deniers and neo-Nazi groups will no longer be able to hold public meetings or distribute their literature in Switzerland.
Prior to the law’s approval, French neo-Nazis confronted by anti-racist laws in their own country had traveled to Switzerland to promote their views.
The Jewish community, as well as the Swiss government, had pushed hard for a favorable vote in the referendum.
Claire Lucetta, secretary of the Swiss League to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination, said in an interview that the high numbers of “no” votes had dampened her pleasure over the final results.
But Swiss Foreign Minister Flavio Cotti said it was the “yes” votes that were most important for the Swiss image abroad.
Rolf Bloch, president of the Swiss Jewish community, estimated at 19,000, offered a similar viewpoint, saying, “I am happy and relieved by the result. As in football, it is the result that counts.”