Update: 26.08.2015

New recommendations from the UN Committee against Torture for Switzerland

The Committee against Torture has proposed the inclusion of an explicit ban on torture and on inhuman and degrading treatment in Switzerland’s criminal law. The UN expert body has urged for the creation of independent complaint mechanisms in case of police violence, more careful consideration of the non-refoulment prohibition by providing legal protection in case of deportation (especially for sans papiers and in Dublin cases), the improvement of detention conditions particularly for mentally ill persons, better respect of children’s rights in administrative detention, better treatment of unattended underage asylum seekers and comprehensive protection for intersex children against unjustified medical surgical operations.

Similar recommendations to 2010

For the fourth time, the Committee against Torture (CAT) focussed on Swiss efforts to implement the Convention against Torture as part of its 55th session in August 2015. The CAT's concluding remarks to Switzerland are widely known and differ only in nuances compared to the recommendations which were published during the previous checks in 2010 and 2007.

The Committee also included a new topic: it recommended Switzerland to guarantee the protection of integrity and the self-determination of persons with gender varieties (intersex persons) and to prevent unnecessary medical and surgical interventions without the person's consent. Switzerland has to provide counselling and support for affected people and their parents and must evaluate cases of unlawful operations and provide adequate compensation.

Although the Committee praised the «lawyer for the first hour» position in the new Swiss criminal procedure code, it criticised several known cases in which arrested persons were not allowed to contact their relatives, did not receive medical aid and were not informed about of rights.

The Committee also praised the creation of the National Commission for the Prevention of Torture (NCPT), although it criticised its insufficient financial resources. Switzerland was also urged to press ahead with efforts to create an independent human rights institution.

Finally, the Committee investigated violence against women and criticised the fact that around 70% of all proceedings are closed. It encouraged Switzerland to enforce the planned reforms. In addition, Switzerland was asked to protect foreign victims of domestic violence and not to make too high demands to prove the suffered violence.

Active participation of the civil society

Before the negotiations numerous NGOs handed in so-called shadow reports to the CAT. Humanrights.ch published a common statement with ACAT (organisation of Christians for the abolition of torture), Amnesty International, apt (Association for the Prevention of Torture), the Child Rights Network Switzerland and OMCT (World Organisation against Torture). CAT also received a report by the National Commission for the Prevention of Torture (NCPT).

Further steps

Switzerland has until 14 August 2016 to produce a progress report in which it has to give particulars on its efforts in relation to combatting and punishing police violence as well as the protection of the non-refoulment principle in the case of underage asylum seekers. Switzerland also has to provide information on measures taken after the study of acts of violence in penal institutions.

The eighth report has to be handed in to CAT on 14 August 2019.

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