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Swiss town’s night curfew on children ‘violates their rights’

©UNICEF Schweiz und Liechtenstein/Chris Reist

Children’s charity UNICEF says a night-time curfew imposed on youngsters by a Swiss town is a violation of their basic rights.

Studen, a municipality in the canton (region) of Berne, has brought in the curfew that prevents under-14s to be out alone between 10pm and 6am.

Supporters of the policy, introduced after a vote of local councillors was ratified by the council, argue that the measure will help young protect youngsters and prevent vandalism and anti-social behaviour.

Young people will only be allowed to be out between the prescribed hours if accompanied by a parent or supervising adult.

UNICEF Switzerland and Liechenstein says that under the Swiss Federal Constitution, every person has the right to life ‘and personal freedom’, and argues that these fundamental rights ‘apply to everybody, including to children’. “Any restriction of these civil liberties constitutes a denial of personal freedom…a curfew is a temporary deprivation of freedom for the period in question,” says the charity.

As is the case for adults, it says, the personal freedom of children ends where it impinges on the rights of others, and while it can be justified in certain situations such as public security or general safety, it ‘must be justified and reasonable’. It points to the COVID pandemic as an example of such a situation.

“The curfew is quite clearly a violation of children’s rights…because children’s rights apply unconditionally and at all times, for all children between the ages of 0 and 18,” it adds.

The council’s reasoning that the curfew helps to protect children ‘ignores children’s rights and the effects of an absence of the curfew, such as children being able to move around freely’.

The curfew restricts and even disregards the rights guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,” a convention that Switzerland itself ratified in 1997.

Heinz Lanz, Mayor of Studen, said the need for such a preventative regulation had been confirmed by the municipal council and assembly, and that ‘a society can be measured by the protection of the weakest’.

“Studen is not the first municipality in Seeland to want to continue to protect children and hold parents accountable. As long as parents are aware of their responsibility, the regulation remains a purely preventive regulation that is not used at all.

“The regulations also regulate the use of fireworks without us being bothered by rockets and firecrackers every day,” he said.

Author: Simon Weedy

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