Update: 19.08.2011

Freedom of association

On this page you will find legal guarantees and other regulations from the Swiss Federal Constitution, the European and international human rights treaties and further documents under international law. This list is not intended to be exhaustive, as regulations from other regional treaties and topically similar safeguarding provisions of international humanitarian law are not included.

Swiss Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation of 18 April 1999

(English is not an official language of the Swiss Confederation. This translation is provided for information purposes only and has no legal force.)

Article 23 (Freedom of association): (1) Freedom of association is guaranteed.
(2) Everyone has the right to form, join or belong to an association and to participate in the activities of an association.
(3) No one may be compelled to join or to belong to an association.

Article 28 (Right to form professional associations): (1) Employees, employers and their organisations have the right to join together in order to protect their interests, to form associations and to join or not to join such associations.
(2) Disputes must wherever possible be resolved through negotiation or mediation.
(3) Strikes and lock outs shall be permitted if they relate to employment relations and if they do not contravene any requirements to preserve peaceful employment relations or to conduct conciliation proceedings.
(4) The law may prohibit certain categories of person from taking strike action.

European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

Article 11 (Freedom of assembly and association): (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
(2) No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This Article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State.

European Social Charter (revised)

PART I
(5) All workers and employers have the right to freedom of association in national or international organisations for the protection of their economic and social interests. 

PART II
Article 5 (The right to organise: With a view to ensuring or promoting the freedom of workers and employers to form local, national or international organisations for the protection of their economic and social interests and to join those organisations, the Parties undertake that national law shall not be such as to impair, nor shall it be so applied as to impair, this freedom. The extent to which the guarantees provided for in this article shall apply to the police shall be determined by national laws or regulations. The principle governing the application to the members of the armed forces of these guarantees and the extent to which they shall apply to persons in this category shall equally be determined by national laws or regulations.

(Switzerland has not ratified this Charter.)

Universal Declaration of Human Rights 

Article 20: (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association. 

Article 23:
...
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests. 

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Article 8: (1) The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to ensure:
(a) The right of everyone to form trade unions and join the trade union of his choice, subject only to the rules of the organization concerned, for the promotion and protection of his economic and social interests. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those prescribed by law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public order or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others;
(b) The right of trade unions to establish national federations or confederations and the right of the latter to form or join international trade-union organizations;
(c) The right of trade unions to function freely subject to no limitations other than those prescribed by law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public order or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others;
(d) The right to strike, provided that it is exercised in conformity with the laws of the particular country.
(2) This article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces or of the police or of the administration of the State.
(3) Nothing in this article shall authorize States Parties to the International Labour Organisation Convention of 1948 concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize to take legislative measures which would prejudice, or apply the law in such a manner as would prejudice, the guarantees provided for in that Convention. 

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Article 22: (1) Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
(2) No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those which are prescribed by law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on members of the armed forces and of the police in their exercise of this right.
(3) Nothing in this article shall authorize States Parties to the International Labour Organisation Convention of 1948 concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize to take legislative measures which would prejudice, or to apply the law in such a manner as to prejudice, the guarantees provided for in that Convention. 

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

Article 5: In compliance with the fundamental obligations laid down in article 2 of this Convention, States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights:
...
(e) Economic, social and cultural rights, in particular:
...
(ii) The right to form and join trade unions;

Convention on the Rights of the Child 

Article 15: (1) States Parties recognize the rights of the child to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly.
(2) No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of these rights other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. 

International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families 

Article 26: (1) States Parties recognize the right of migrant workers and members of their families:
(a) To take part in meetings and activities of trade unions and of any other associations established in accordance with law, with a view to protecting their economic, social, cultural and other interests, subject only to the rules of the organization concerned;
(b) To join freely any trade union and any such association as aforesaid, subject only to the rules of the organization concerned;
(c) To seek the aid and assistance of any trade union and of any such association as aforesaid.
(2) No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of these rights other than those that are prescribed by law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public order (ordre public) or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. 

Article 40: (1) Migrant workers and members of their families shall have the right to form associations and trade unions in the State of employment for the promotion and protection of their economic, social, cultural and other interests.
(2) No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those that are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public order (ordre public) or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. 

(This Convention has not been ratified by Switzerland.)

Sources:

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