Swiss official suspended over alleged hate speech on Facebook

A top management official in the Swiss canton of Aargau has been forced to take leave after he posted abusive messages targeting refugees and immigrants on Facebook.

Swiss official suspended over alleged hate speech on Facebook
File photo: Depositphotos

Authorities in the Aargau town of Boswil suspended municipal security Daniel Wicki on Monday after a meeting behind closed doors.

He will remain on forced leave until a criminal complaint lodged against him is investigated, Boswil Deputy Mayor Liliane Kappeler told media outlets on Tuesday.

“The council regrets the thoughtless and inhuman posts of its municipal secretary. These are intolerable,” said the local council in a statement.

In one of the posts in question, Wicki called for the alleged rapists, including asylum seekers, of a woman in Germany to be given the death penalty.

“Fantastic that they’ve caught these pigs. Line them up against the wall and give them a clean 9mm ‘vaccination’. It’s not painful and it’s efficient and lasting,” he wrote.

In another post, he noted it was “strange” how asylum seekers' mobile phones were water-proof but that they all lost their documents and passports “while they were on their little boats on the sea”.

Wicki initially told the Blick newspaper, which broke the story, that the posts were his “personal opinion” and had “nothing to do” with his professional responsibilities.

However, when contacted shortly after by regional daily Aargauer Zeitung, Wicki conceded the comments had been “borderline”. He said the comment about the rapists has been the “worst one” and apologised fully “for having written it”.

That post has since been deleted, but is the only one to have been, Aargauer Zeitung noted.

The response to news of Wicki’s Facebook posts was rapid. Socialist Party MP Cédric Wermuth, a Boswil native, launched an online petition calling for the official to be fired. This has now been signed by over 2,000 people.

On Saturday, the Socialist Party in Boswil, which holds no seats in a council dominated by the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), lodged a criminal complaint against Wicki, arguing his comments could contravene Swiss hate speech laws.

“If he is found guilty, he will be dismissed. If he is not found guilty, council measures will be applied,” said Boswil’s deputy mayor on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Wicki has denied being a racist. Speaking to the Tele M1 station he said he was a “realist”. He said his job allowed him to “see behind it all” so that he knew “what is really going on”.

But he said he couldn’t make those details public for “official secrecy and data privacy” reasons.

Whether he manages to hold onto his job even if he is found not guilty by investigators remains to be seen. One thing is certain: he has support within the council.

The SVP Mayor of Boswil, Michael Weber, said the official only “tells it how it is”.

For members


Switzerland acknowledges ‘systemic racism’ in the country

Despite a UN human rights group having accused Switzerland of being home to racist attitudes in the past, the country has never officially acknowledged it — until now.

Switzerland acknowledges 'systemic racism' in the country

In October 2022, the UN Human Rights Council released a report indicating that Switzerland discriminates against people of African descent. 

“The ubiquity and impunity of this misconduct indicates a serious systemic problem exists,” it said.

According to media reports, “Switzerland’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva broadly accepted the findings, although questioned the experts’ use of a limited number of examples to draw wider conclusions.” 

Though the problem has reportedly been lingering for years, Switzerland has never officially acknowledged it — until now.

As RTS public broadcaster reported on Monday, the government’s Anti-Racism Service (SLR) admitted, in an unprecedented move, “the existence of systemic racism in Switzerland.”

This includes “discrimination or exclusion based on racial criteria, such as skin colour, names, languages, accents, etc, as well as prejudices built up throughout history and now so deeply rooted in our society that they go unnoticed.”

In 2022, 708 cases of racial discrimination were registered in Switzerland, according to Federal Commission against Racism. Most of them took place in workplace and schools.

As an example of discrimination, the SLR report mentions difficulties that Albanian, Turkish, Tamil, and African people face in finding housing or jobs.

And that kind of attitude sometimes continues even after these foreigners obtain Swiss citizenship.

For instance, as The Local reported earlier, foreigners who become Swiss but who have distinctly foreign names or are visibly of other ethnic backgrounds, don’t have the same opportunities to get hired as their native Swiss counterparts.

A similar phenomenon affects the search for apartments: researchers found that applicants with Kosovan or Turkish names were not given as many opportunities to view apartments as non-foreign applicants.

READ ALSO: How employers and landlords in Switzerland ‘discriminate against Swiss citizens of immigrant origin’

However, researchers pointed out that Switzerland is no exception and similar discrimination against job applicants from immigrant backgrounds exists in other countries across Europe as well.

There have been various instances of racism in recent years, though many cases go unreported.

Among the ones that made news was a job advert for a truck driver, with the company specifying that the successful candidate must be a ‘Helvetian’ who eats pork — effectively excluding Muslims and Jews.

READ ALSO: ‘We eat pork’: Swiss company’s job listing for a driver accused of discrimination

Another, more recent example is that of a yodeller in the canton of Appenzell who performed in a black wig and painted black face.

Though this incident stirred controversy — as a black wig and face are not part of the typical yodelling attire — a court ruled that such a performance during a carnival did not quality as racism, especially as the yodeller didn’t make disparaging comments about Africans.

READ ALSO: Swiss yodeller cleared of racism over ‘black face’ performance

What does the law say?

In Switzerland, racial discrimination is defined as “any form of unjustified inequality of treatment, verbal statement or physical use of force that discriminates against a person or a group of persons on the grounds of their ethnic origin, race, language or religion.” 

There are several legislations in place, including a constitutional article, prohibiting racism and racial discrimination of any kind.

Article 8 of the Federal Constitution guarantees every person living in Switzerland the right to equal treatment.

Specifically, no one may be discriminated against because of their origin, race, gender, language, religion or way of life.

Anyone found to be guilty of breaking this law is subject — depending on the severity of the offence — to a fine or up to three years in prison.

Does this system actually work?

Yes, at least in some cases.

The most recent example, which is still making news in Switzerland, is that of a French comedian, Dieudonné.

In 2019, he stated publicly while performing in Geneva that “the gas chambers never existed,” referring to Nazi concentration camps in Eastern Europe, where millions of Jews had perished. 

A case against him was filed at the time by the Coordination against Anti-semitism and Defamation (CICAD) organisation.

A Swiss court found him guilty of racism and he was sentenced to a 36,000-franc fine, but he appealed the verdict to a higher court, claiming a right to free expression guaranteed by the Swiss constitution.

However, last week, on April 14th, Switzerland’s highest court upheld the previous ruling, stating that Dieudonné’s remarks “grossly minimised the Holocaust” and criticising his “inclination to make fun of the victims of the Holocaust.”

What measures will Switzerland take to curb racism now that it acknowledged its existence?

The SLR is pledging to step up its  fight against racism, starting with identifying the most vulnerable people, and then finding solutions in collaboration with public and civil authorities.

Concretely, it has committed to the following measures:

  • Awareness and prevention to fight against racial discrimination and defend human rights
  • Strengthen legal protection against discrimination
  • Publicise this information at national and international level
  • Provide funds to support anti-racism and human rights defence projects