UN to examine legality of Swiss minaret ban

The United Nations said Monday it aimed to study the legality of the ban on the building of new minarets in Switzerland as a result of the country’s referendum on Sunday. A spokesman for the UN High Commission on Humanr Rights said in Geneva that experts would study whether the ban was in harmony with international law.

On a day of reaction ranging from outrage to alarm in both Muslim and Western countries alike to the Swiss referendum outcome, the Swiss government was coming in for criticism for even permitting the vote to be held in the first place.

UN expert Nigel Rodley noted that the governing Swiss Federal Council had agreed the referendum vilated not only the Swiss constitution but also UN treaties, and yet permitted the vote to go ahead anyway.

Meanwhile Berne law professor Walter Kaelin predicted that the minaret ban would not be valid for very long. He said he expected Switzerland to lift the ban.

“Switzerland is not going to abandon the European human rights convention just over a few minarets less,” said Kaelin, an expert on international law, told the Swiss news agency SDA.

In a related development, the Islamic community of Langenthal south of Basle, which had triggered the issue with its plans to build a minaret, said that if necessary it would appeal the referendum decision with the European Court of Justice.


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