European court dismisses suit on Swiss minarets

AP News
Posted: Jul 08, 2011 6:08 AM
European court dismisses suit on Swiss minarets

The European Court of Human Rights on Friday dismissed a challenge by Muslim groups to Switzerland's minaret building ban.

A panel of seven judges with the Strasbourg, France-based, court ruled that the people filing the lawsuits couldn't claim to be victims. The ruling's timing coincided with the Muslim day of prayer.

Swiss voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on minarets in 2009 that barred any more construction of the iconic mosque towers.

The country's four standing minarets, which were not affected by the ban, do not traditionally broadcast the call to prayer outside their own buildings.

The judges concluded that the people who filed the lawsuits in the European court _ a former spokesman for a Geneva mosque and several Swiss Muslim groups _ failed to show how the ban had harmed their human rights, the court said in a statement Friday.

"For an application to be admissible, it had to be lodged by an applicant who could claim to be the 'victim' of a violation," the court said. "The court noted at the outset that their main complaint was that the disputed constitutional provision offended their religious beliefs; however, they did not allege that it had had any practical effect on them."

The referendum by the nationalist Swiss People's Party had labeled minarets as symbols of rising Muslim political power that could one day transform Switzerland into an Islamic nation.

The initiative was approved 57.5 to 42.5 percent by some 2.67 million voters. Only four of the 26 cantons or states opposed the initiative, granting the double approval that makes it part of the Swiss constitution.

The Swiss government had opposed the ban, but was forced to follow it. The vote drew immediate condemnation at home and abroad, and put the country at the forefront of a European backlash against a growing Muslim population.