Switzerland

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Switzerland 2022

The European Court of Human Rights found a violation of freedom of peaceful assembly. A landmark UN report exposed systemic racism in Switzerland. New legislation on rape was considered but not yet adopted. Several proposals to reform the law on abortion were ongoing. Parliament took a significant but insufficient step towards strengthening climate action. The war in Ukraine highlighted flaws in the current asylum system. A new draft law proposed extensive surveillance powers for the National Intelligence Service.

Background

Efforts to create a new national human rights institution in 2023 were ongoing.

In September, Switzerland ratified an amendment to Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the ICC, declaring that the intentional starvation of civilians would be considered a war crime during civil wars as well as in international armed conflicts.

Freedom of assembly

In March, the European Court of Human Rights found in Communauté genevoise d’action syndicale v. Switzerland a violation of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. The case was referred to the Grand Chamber.

Discrimination

Racism

The UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent found racism to be systemic in Switzerland. It recommended an explicit prohibition of racial profiling, and the creation of civilian, independent complaint mechanisms with oversight and disciplinary authority over the police in every canton.

In October, the Swiss government sent a draft law to parliament to ban face coverings following a referendum supported by 51.2% of voters in 2021.

LGBTI people’s rights

In June, the parliament gave the Federal Council a binding mandate to draw up a national action plan to better support and protect people from anti-LGBTI hate crimes.

On 1 July, the new regulations to legalize civil marriage and the right to adopt children for same-sex couples became effective.

Rights of people with disabilities

In March, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities found that Switzerland had violated the rights of around 1.8 million people with disabilities, most notably due to the lack of a comprehensive strategy for implementing the Convention. The Committee recommended ratifying the optional protocol on individual complaints.

Gender-based violence

Parliament did not conclude its deliberations regarding a new criminal provision on rape. While the Council of States in June opted for the so-called “No means No” model, the National Council approved the “Only Yes means Yes” model, which would be in line with the CEDAW Committee’s concluding observation that the definition of rape should be based on the absence of consent. The draft law was due to go back to the Council of States in March 2023.

Sexual and reproductive rights

In May, a member of the Green party launched a parliamentary initiative to reframe abortion as a public health issue. Two separate initiatives started in December 2021 by members of the Swiss People’s Party seeking to restrict access to abortion were ongoing.

Failure to tackle climate crisis

In April, the case of Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland, in which a group of elderly women alleged that their health was adversely affected by Switzerland’s failure to address climate change, was fast-tracked to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.

In September, parliament adopted a proposal which would enshrine in law a target of net-zero emissions by 2050 and define new measures for different industries and sectors. It was due to enter into force in 2023 pending a referendum.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Switzerland implemented a temporary protection regime similar to that of the EU Directive. The rapid support for people fleeing Ukraine was in stark contrast to flaws in the regulations applied to asylum seekers from other nationalities admitted under provisional admission status.

Due to the arrival of Ukrainian refugees, several projects aimed at improving the living conditions in federal asylum centres were postponed.

The National Commission for the Prevention of Torture criticized the use of partial restraint during forced returns, the failure to adequately consider children’s rights, and compulsory Covid-19 tests for people to be returned.

Corporate accountability

The Senate’s legal affairs committee decided to begin work to explicitly include the prohibition of forced labour in the existing due diligence legislation.

Right to privacy

The draft amendments of the Federal Act on the Intelligence Service were heavily criticized for expanding the already broad powers of the intelligence services at the expense of fundamental rights.

In September, the city parliament of St Gallen voted to ban biometric surveillance in public places.