January 25, 2001 – Police confirmed that ‘normal-looking’ people not carrying propaganda will be allowed to enter the Swiss ski resort of Davos during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. People have been arrested for distributing leaflets and others refused entry at road blocks on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting.
The organizers of the Public Eye on Davos, an alternative forum that is meeting to question the legitimacy of the WEF and to discuss environmental and social questions raised by economic globalisation, criticised the police actions as “a violation of human rights and of Switzerland’s democratic traditions”. The Public Eye on Davos opposes the use of any kind of violence but believe that the actions of the police are not based on any evidence that those refused entry to the town will commit crimes.
The Public Eye on Davos is holding open meetings on issues such as trade policy, regulation of corporations and alternatives to economic globalisation. Members of the public have been encouraged to attend but many now cannot because of their appearance or because they happened to be carrying leaflets or other papers. Members of the Berne Declaration, one of the organizers of the Public Eye on Davos, have been sent back to Zurich under threat of arrest. Students distributing leaflets advertising the Public Eye meetings have been arrested by police in Davos and photographed. Journalists who wanted to cover the “Public Eye” conference were denied access to Davos as well.
Kerim Yildiz, a leading international human rights lawyer and a speaker in the Public Eye on Davos conference, said “The actions of the police are a clear violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Switzerland is a party. The police have assumed, with no evidence and purely on the basis of appearance, that certain citizens are going to commit crimes. This is a clear violation of the freedom of movement. They have also refused entry to the town on the basis that people will demonstrate. This is a violation of the freedom of assembly. No wonder people are suspicious of large corporations meeting in secret. This kind of behaviour can perhaps be expected in undemocratic states but surely not in a democracy as old as Switzerland”.
Jolanda Piniel of the Public Eye on Davos said: “If looking normal is a test for getting into Davos, then most of the chiefs of the global corporations meeting here should not have been let in. Is it right that the majority of the world’s population is excluded from these discussions even though the issues being discussed by the WEF are of importance to people world wide?”
Beat Jans of Pro Natura, Friends of the Earth Switzerland, said: “The Public Eye will be half blind as long as Davos is not a public place any more. The town has been effectively privatized so that the heads of the world’s largest corporations can meet without hearing the voices of the people who will be affected by their policies”.
Kerim Yildiz +44 411 583 638
Beat Jans +41 79 216 02 06
Jolanda Piniel +41 79 478 91 94