Update: 02.11.2012

UPR: 140 recommendations for the advancement of human rights in Switzerland

For the second time, Switzerland is undergoing the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the Office of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

140 recommendations to Switzerland – an overview

The UPR recommendations and the response of the Swiss delegation were announced during a meeting of the UPR working group of the Human Rights Council on 31 October 2012.

Switzerland received a total of 140 recommendations. The Swiss delegation accepted 50 of them instantly and refused 4 refused. Another 86 recommendations required clarification and further consultations with the cantons. These 86 open questions have to be positively addressed by Switzerland by February 2013.

Below you will find a first overview of the UPR recommendations of 2012 (an analysis with commentaries from a NGO perspective will follow later):

Recommendations accepted instantly

The 50 accepted recommendations can be split up into the following fields:

  • Ratification of international treaties, namely the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (4 recommendations)
  • Prevention and fight against racism and xenophobia (7 recommendations)
  • Asylum procedure (1 recommendation)
  • Migration / integration / minorities (8 recommendations)
  • Inequality between women and men (5 recommendations)
  • Human trafficking (8 recommendations)
  • Domestic violence (3 recommendations)
  • Police and judiciary (5 recommendations)
  • Rights of elderly people (1 recommendation)
  • Campaign on the effects of corporal punishment (1 recommendation)
  • Measures in the fight against poverty (1 recommendation)
  • Equal opportunities in the education system for children with deprived backgrounds (1 recommendation)
  • Implementation of all UPR recommendations accepted in 2008 (1 recommendation)
  • Consultation of NGOs when implementing the new UPR recommendations (1 recommendation)
  • Various topics (3 recommendations)

Recommendations refused instantly

Four recommendations were refused instantly, because it was considered politically unrealistic to find majorities in Switzerland that would agree to their implementation:

  • Ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families
  • Legal ban on racist organisations
  • Removal of the constitutional article on the ban on minarets
  • Creation of legal means to enforce all social rights

Recommendations yet to be decided on

Switzerland has not yet voiced its position on the following 86 recommendations, because they will have to be more closely assessed and because they require consultation with the cantons:

  • Ratification of various individual complaints procedures (Pact I, Pact II, Convention on the Rights of the Child, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) and conventions (stateless persons, ILO No.189) (4 recommendations)
  • Withdrawal of conditions regarding the Convention on the Rights of the Child, CEDAW and CERD (10 recommendations)
  • Definition of torture in the Swiss Criminal Code (2 recommendations)
  • Creation of ombudsman institutions on federal and cantonal levels (3 recommendations)
  • Extension of the mandate of the Federal Commission against Racism (2 recommendations)
  • Creation of an independent national human rights institution (5 recommendations)
  • Comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation (3 recommendations)
  • Better protection against discrimination, especially with respect to sexual orientation and gender identity (2 recommendations)
  • Action plan against racism (3 recommendations)
  • Further action against racism (7 recommendations)
  • Training and continuing education of the police force (3 recommendations)
  • Independent investigation of excessive police violence (3 recommendations)
  • Broadening of the definition of discrimination in Art. 261bis Swiss Criminal Code (1 recommendation)
  • Legal provisions against incitement to hatred (2 recommendations)
  • Adequate lodging of refugees and asylum seekers (1 recommendation)
  • Lowering of the unemployment rate among migrants (1 recommendation)
  • Handling of sans-papiers/illegal immigrants by the cantons (1 recommendation)
  • Courses in their native tongue for school children with migration background (1 recommendation)
  • Compatibility of popular initiatives with human rights obligations (2 recommendations)
  • Freedom of religion (1 recommendation)
  • Freedom of expression (2 recommendations)
  • Precautionary measures against human trafficking and sexual exploitation (4 recommendations)
  • Right of residence for victims of domestic violence (2 recommendations)
  • Measures to foster increased participation of women and gender equality (3 recommendations)
  • Gender equality in the labour market (1 recommendation)
  • Implementation of UN regulations on the treatment of female prisoners (1 recommendation)
  • Separation of juvenile and adult delinquents in prisons (2 recommendations)
  • Legal ban on corporal punishment (1 recommendation)
  • Strengthening of child welfare (1 recommendation)
  • Increase of development assistance to 0.7% of the GNP (2 recommendations)
  • Human rights compatibility test for free trade agreements (1 recommendation)
  • Advancement of the right to development on an international level (1 recommendation)
  • Advancement of the topic human rights and environment (1 recommendation)
  • Invitation of Special Rapporteurs of the UN Human Rights Council (1 recommendation)

Around 80 countries participate in the dialogue with Switzerland

On 29 October 2012, Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter presented the Swiss report on behalf of the Swiss Delegation to the Human Rights Council and issued a statement on the implementation of the UPR recommendations of 2008.

Following the Federal Councillor’s speech, around 80 countries expressed their position on Swiss human rights issues and voiced recommendations for the improvement of Swiss human rights policies. Besides their positive comments, points that were repeatedly addressed were the lacking ratification of international human rights conventions, the on-going fight against racism, prevention of police violence, improved legal protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual identity, the intensification of the fight against human trafficking, the compatibility of popular initiatives with human rights obligations, as well as the transformation of the Swiss Centre of Expertise in Human Rights into an independent national human rights institution. Federal Councillor Burkhalter explained the Swiss government’s view on various topics that were brought up.
The recommendations that were voiced will be put into writing by the end of October 2012 at the latest, allowing Switzerland to already accept or refuse some of the recommendations, while a definite official statement on most recommendations will be presented at the next session of the Human Rights Council in February 2013.

Joint press conference with NGO coalition

Following the UPR session on Switzerland, the Swiss delegation together with Federal Councillor Burkhalter faced the press. For the first time, the Swiss NGO coalition was allowed to give a statement at this press conference. The coalition of 47 non-governmental organisations participated in the UPR from the beginning and had already been invited to a consultation meeting with the federal authorities in May 2012. As a consequence several important points from the NGO report were included in the official Swiss country report. This open-minded approach of the Swiss authorities towards the NGO coalition was underlined by the common press conference on 29 October 2012. However, this does not imply that they agree on substantive issues.

How well were the 2008 recommendations implemented?

An important topic of the second UPR was the implementation of the recommendations issued in 2008. In January 2012, the Swiss Centre of Expertise in Human Rights (SCHR) noted that hardly any of the more than 20 recommendations made in 2008 had been systematically implemented. The SCHR study was discussed during a conference on 24 January 2012.

NGO report 2012

In its UPR report of spring 2012, the Swiss NGO coalition resumed numerous key recommendations (both accepted and rejected ones) from the 2008 report because no progress can be seen since then. At issue are the pending ratification of international human rights conventions, the lack of anti-discrimination legislation, a national human rights institution, complaints mechanisms in case of suspected police violence, legal means to enforce social rights, as well as various issues relating to asylum law.

A lack of coordination

Recent inquiries by swissinfo.ch show, that there have been no internal efforts to approach the 2008 UPR recommendations as a serious list of issues which need to be tackled systematically. And this is where the Coalition’s UPR report 2012 calls for a fundamental change. In recommendation No. 1 Switzerland is invited to «create institutional mechanisms which are suitable to guarantee an efficient coordination between Confederation, cantons and civil society in the follow-up of recommendations of international human rights organs».

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