Update: 01.12.2009

Human Rights Committee’s recommendations to Switzerland

On 30 October 2009, the UN human rights committee – which is responsible for the monitoring of UN Covenant on civil and political rights – released his «Concluding observations» to Switzerland.  Two weeks before, the committee had intensively questioned a Swiss delegation on different points of the Swiss official report. Various NGO, inclusive a broad coalition of Swiss organizations, also presented their analysis of the situation in Switzerland in the so called «alternative report». Under coordination of Humanrights.ch, the alternative report highlighted several shortcomings of the Swiss legislation with respect to the civil and political rights. In the first line, the NGO coalition stressed the need for Switzerland to withdraw the reservation to Art. 26 on non-discrimination and the requirement to ratify the additional protocol.

This article provides a short survey on the main recommendations issued by the committee.

Old recommendations in a new disposition

Some of the recommendations are by no means new and were already to be found in the last committee report (2001) and in other UN bodies’ reports. This includes for instance the request to implement the covenant’s norms at all levels of legislation (national, cantonal and communal) (section 6 of the concluding observations) or the request to establish a national human rights institution (section 7). According to the committee, the proposal currently discussed of a university specialized center for human rights does not entirely fit the Paris principles, which are meant to inform the creation of national human rights institutions. The committee reminds that the institution planned by the Swiss government can only fulfill a small part of the mandate described in the Paris principles. Furthermore, the committee notes the necessity of allowing more resources to the fight against racism and against discrimination of religious minorities (including the Jewish community) (Section 8, 9 and 10). 

A deficient legal protection

The legal protection of specific groups of population is also an important issue within the committee’s recommendations. One of the focus lies on the reservation made by Switzerland to Art. 26 (non-discrimination) (Section 4). Other problems are also the establishment of cantonal independent bodies meant to deal with police violence and abuses (Section 14) and the need of independent observers ensuring asylum seekers a sufficient legal protection within the asylum procedure (Sections 15 and 18). The human rights committee also insists on Switzerland ratifying the additional protocol, which would enable people to fill an individual complaint (Section 5).

Further recommendations

The committee also encourages Switzerland to revise the following points:

  • Insufficient help provided to foreign women victim of violence (Section 11)
  • Unsatisfactory federal legislation on weapons (Section 12)
  • Softening of the non-refoulement principle (Section 16)
  • Overcrowded prisons (Section 17)
  • Violations of fundamental rights of persons whose asylum application has been rejected (Section 19)

Eventually, the committee denunciates the latest revision of the Swiss civil code, according to which a person without valid documents cannot get married, as unacceptable in light of the covenant’s goals (e.g. right of union and right to create a family) (Section 21).

    Several other reports were submitted to the Committee, most of them focusing on the human rights situation of the foreign population of Switzerland, both migrants and asylum seekers.

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