Migrants and asylum-seekers with rejected asylum claims were returned in violation of the non-refoulement principle. Concerns remained regarding the use of disproportionate force during the deportation of migrants. Government proposals for the creation of a National Human Rights Institution continued to be criticized for failing to guarantee the Institution’s independence.
Legal, constitutional or institutional developments
In August, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concerns regarding the “Initiative for auto-determination”, a referendum that was likely to be scheduled for 2018 and which would lead to supremacy of the Federal Constitution over international treaties. The Committee urged Switzerland to introduce a control mechanism to ensure that referendums comply with international human rights law before being presented for a popular vote.
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Committee urged Switzerland in May and June respectively to establish a fully independent National Human Rights Institution with a sufficiently broad mandate and adequate resources to comply with the Principles relating to the Status of National Institutions (Paris Principles). NGOs raised concerns about the lack of full independence of the Human Rights Institution proposed by the Federal Council (government) in June.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
The authorities returned several asylum-seekers to other Schengen Area Member States by applying the Dublin III Regulation (EU law that determines the EU member state responsible to examine an application for asylum) but without duly taking into account their family ties in Switzerland.
In April, the Federal Court ruled that the detention of two Afghan parents with their infant, and the placement of their three other children in an orphanage in 2016, with the purpose of returning the whole family to Norway, had disproportionately violated their right to family life.
In October, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights called on Switzerland to improve the identification and protection of the most vulnerable migrants and asylum-seekers, and to apply a gender and child-sensitive approach to all migration and asylum-related decisions and measures. Child asylum-seekers in federal reception centres continued to be denied access to education.
In several cases, the European Court of Human Rights and the UN Committee against Torture ruled that the return of people with failed asylum claims or undocumented migrants to Sri Lanka, Sudan and Turkey violated the principle of non-refoulement (forcible return of individuals to a country where they risked serious human rights violations).
Police and security forces
In August, the UN Human Rights Committee urged Switzerland to introduce an independent complaint mechanism to examine allegations of unlawful use of force by police and to collect comprehensive and disaggregated data on the number of complaints, investigations and convictions. It also recommended the introduction of a provision expressly prohibiting and criminalizing torture as a separate offence in the Criminal Code.
In July, while noting some improvements, the National Commission for the Prevention of Torture raised concerns about the excessive use of force by police, in particular in the context of deporting migrants.
In March, the Upper Chamber of the Federal Parliament (Council of States) rejected a bill to ban full-face veils at the national level.
In August, the Human Rights Committee urged Switzerland to introduce comprehensive legislation against discrimination. It also recommended that Switzerland not subject intersex children without consent to medically unnecessary interventions to determine their gender.
In August, the Human Rights Committee recommended that Switzerland continue to combat domestic violence, female genital mutilation and forced marriages, to train justice professionals to address cases of domestic violence, and to facilitate the stay of migrant women who had suffered domestic violence. In December, Switzerland ratified the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention).