22 January 2015
The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the combined second to fourth periodic report of Switzerland under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the initial report under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
Introducing the report, Ambassador Stephan Cueni, Head of the International Affairs Division, Federal Social Insurance Office of Switzerland, said that notwithstanding the rather favourable situation of children in Switzerland, it was important to recognize sensitive issues and challenges, such as poverty, sexual abuse and violence, suicide, self-mutilation and addictive behaviour. The new law on the promotion of childhood and youth had entered into force in 2013, and allowed the Confederation to allocate financial resources to cantons for a period of eight years, and the protection of children from sexual abuse had been strengthened by changes in the criminal law.
Anne-Claude Demierre, member of the Fribourg Government Council and Director of Health and Social Affairs of the Canton of Fribourg and member of the Conference of cantonal directors of social affairs, also introducing the report, said that children and youth policies were in principle the responsibility of cantons. Communes were responsible for developing specific activities for children and youth and the placement of children, with the support of their cantons. All cantons had networks of services to provide services to children and their parents and to intervene to protect the child. Significant progress had been made in the participation of children and youth in planning and decision-making.
Committee Experts asked if Switzerland would lift the reservations it had entered to several articles of the Convention. They also inquired about coordination at the federal level and with and between the cantons, the obstacles to establishing an independent national human rights institution, and plans to abolish corporal punishment. Experts welcomed measures taken so far to address discrimination, but expressed concern about the protection of immigrant and asylum-seeking children, children with disabilities and ethnic minority children, particularly Roma. There were considerable differences between cantons in the enjoyment of child rights and the status of refugee children, which were the result of the sovereignty and competence of cantons in those matters. Switzerland should raise the age of criminal responsibility from the current age of 10, which was way below international standards.
Concerning the sale of the children, Experts emphasized the impressive progress in implementing legislation and establishing procedures to comply with the Optional Protocol, but noted the absence of a study on the extent of sexual violence, which was necessary to develop preventive strategies, while a mechanism for monitoring of sexual delinquents upon their release was lacking. Experts also asked about the system of identification and social rehabilitation of child victims of trafficking and child victims of sexual exploitation.
Gehad Madi, Committee Expert acting as Country Rapporteur for the report of Switzerland, in concluding remarks, said that the Committee raised the bar in the discussion with Switzerland because it was a developed country with the resources and technical capabilities necessary to protect the rights of the child.
In concluding remarks, Mr. Cueni said that the Committee’s proposals and observations would certainly influence the Swiss legislation, adding that federalism, while entirely compatible with Switzerland’s international obligations, sometimes made it difficult to have an overview of efforts to uphold the rights of the child.
The delegation of Switzerland included representatives of the Federal Social Insurance Office, Canton of Fribourg, Conference of cantonal directors of social affairs, Federal Office of Public Health, Federal Office of Justice, Federal Office of Police, State Secretariat for Migration, and the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The next public meeting of the Committee will be at 3 p.m. on Friday, 30 January, when it will adopt its concluding observations and recommendations on the reports of Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Turkmenistan, Sweden, Mauritius, Gambia, Tanzania, Jamaica, Uruguay, Colombia, Iraq and Switzerland, which were considered during the session, before closing its sixty-eighth session.
The combined second to fourth periodic report of Switzerland under the Convention on the Rights of the Child can be read via the following link: CRC/C/CHE/2-4, and the initial report under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography can be found here: CRC/C/OPSC/CHE/1.
Presentation of the Report
STEPHAN CUENI, Head of the International Affairs Division, Federal Social Insurance Office, introducing the report, said that Switzerland believed that the effective implementation of international obligations contributed to strengthening the legislation and human rights nationally and internationally. Defending human rights meant working directly towards peace and international stability. Notwithstanding the rather favourable situation of children in Switzerland, it was important to recognize sensitive issues and challenges, such as poverty, sexual abuse and violence, suicide, self-mutilation and addictive behaviour. The new federal law on the promotion of childhood and youth had entered into force in 2013, which allowed the Confederation to allocate financial resources to cantons for a period of eight years. The national programme on youth and media, set to run until 2015, aimed to protect children in the media domain for the future. With regard to children with migration background, they were entitled to access to education and care on the same level as other children. As for children with disabilities, the emphasis was on their integration into mainstream schools. Switzerland had implemented changes in the criminal law and had strengthened the protection of children from sexual abuse, thus allowing it to accede to the Lanzarote Convention of the Council of Europe. The plan against trafficking 2012 to 2014 was in place and included 23 measures of prevention, repression, support to victims and collaboration; it applied to all victims of trafficking in persons including children.
ANNE-CLAUDE DEMIERRE, Director of Health and Social Affairs of the Canton of Fribourg and member of the Conference of cantonal directors of social affairs, said that the key feature of the Swiss legal order was based on the strong federalism and was based on the sovereignty of the cantons. Children and youth policies were in principle the responsibility of cantons, including compulsory schooling, the police, execution of sanctions, certain aspects of health policies, culture, integration, and significant parts of social policies. Communes were responsible for developing specific activities for children and youth and the placement of children, with the support of their cantons. Federalism allowed for public policies which were closer to the needs of citizens. The Conference of cantonal directors of social affairs (CDAS) had improved inter-cantonal cooperation in the matters of childhood and youth since 2011, and had organized two conferences with the participation of all 26 cantons, one on the coordination of child protection and help to the youth, while the second had been dedicated to collaboration between the cantonal delegates for children and youth. In the context of the 2013 law on the promotion of children and youth, four cantons had concluded agreements with the Confederation. All cantons had networks of services to provide services to children and their parents and to intervene to protect the child. Fifteen cantons had appointed persons to implement the policy for the advancement of children and youth, while some cantons had established Child and Youth Commissions mandated with strategic issues and specific assistance to cantonal authorities. Significant progress had being made in the participation of children and youth in planning and decision-making.
Questions by the Committee Experts
BERNARD GASTAUD, Committee Expert acting as Country Rapporteur for the report of Switzerland, welcomed the delegation of Switzerland and, recalling the reservations on the provisions of the Convention, some of which led to discrimination against children in the country, asked about their status and the status of ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on a communication procedure. While recognizing the progress made in the legislation and institutions, Mr. Gastaud said some issues remained, notably in the area of coordination, particularly on the federal level and within cantons. The Law on the Promotion of Children and Youth entered into force in 2013; was Switzerland able to evaluate the impact of the law on the situation of children and the compliance with the Convention? Switzerland still did not have an independent national human rights institution and the Country Rapporteur asked about obstacles to its establishment.
Which authority was mandated with ensuring that Swiss legislation was in keeping with its international obligations, and was the Convention ever invoked by tribunals? Given the federal nature of the country, it was hard to determine the allocations for children and youth; what were the criteria for federal allocations to cantons? What was the strategy for the implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights? Some cantons had adopted the rules prohibiting children from being in public areas at night and the Country Rapporteur wondered about their impact on freedom of association, and also asked about the lack of regulation on the youth and the Internet, and the plans to abolish corporal punishment.
GEHAD MADI, Committee Expert acting as Country Rapporteur for the report of Switzerland, welcomed the measures taken so far to deal with discrimination and asked about actions taken by the Government and cantons on the implementation of the recommendations and whether the provisions on access to vocational training for immigrant children without papers would be revised. Access to children with disabilities to education or the subsidies provided to unemployed single mothers greatly varied from canton to canton, which pointed to the need to develop a strategy for the uniform implementation of the provisions of the Convention in the State territory. Online hate speech was more and more frequent and was infused with hostility towards minorities, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex children. Turning to the best interest of the child, the Country Rapporteur asked why Switzerland chose to use the term “well-being of the child” in its legislation. One out of every 20 young persons had attempted suicide at least once, and suicide, after car accidents, was the leading cause of death of children; what were the causes behind this high rate, and what strategy was in place to address it? How did Switzerland ensure that children were heard in all matters of interest to them?
Another Committee Expert asked how the right of the child to know his or her origins was applied in cases of assisted reproduction and why this right was not recognized until the child reached the age of 18. What was the difference between legitimate interest of the child and best interest of the child?
KIRSTEN SANDBERG, Committee Chairperson, noted that intersex children underwent surgical operations to determine the sex at a very young age, which did not give the child an opportunity to give his or her informed consent. This practice did not seem to be in the best interest of the child.
Replies by the Delegation
Concerning Switzerland’s reservations on the articles of the Conference, the delegation said in relation to the reservation on article 37(c) of the Convention on the separation of minors and adults deprived of liberty that the cantons were working on this matter and had another two years to complete this work, after which Switzerland would be able to lift this reservation. A lawyer was appointed to a child in conflict with the law, but it was not always free assistance and the Government did not intend to amend the criminal law, therefore the reservation on this article of the Convention would not be lifted. The only condition defining whether legal aid was accorded to minors in conflict with the law was the financial situation of parents and whether they were able to afford it. Switzerland would maintain its reservation on article 10 concerning family reunification, because family reunification could not always be guaranteed to asylum seekers whose request is still examined or has been rejected.
The procedure for accession to the third Optional Protocol on a communication procedure had been initiated, and consultations were ongoing with the relevant parties. It was hard to say how long this process would take because there was an internal legislative procedure that had to be followed, which involved consultation at cantonal and federal levels, the decision to ratify and the national referendum.
In terms of coordination, the delegation said that an electronic platform was being established that provided an overview of policies on children and youth, while financial assistance was available to cantons to develop their youth and childhood policies. The coordination of the Convention on the Rights of the Child followed the procedure stipulated by the Law on the Promotion of Children and Young People, and Switzerland would start in 2015 the implementation of the new concluding observations issued by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. There was no mechanism for follow up to the concluding recommendations until now, said the delegation, noting that this would be enabled by the creation of the electronic platform.
This Law on the Promotion of Children and Young People applied to people up to 25 years of age.
The Cantons are responsible for the issues of children and youth, and they coordinate their activities within the Conference of cantonal directors of social affairs (CDAS). The Law on the Promotion of Children and Young People obliged cantons to develop their child policies, which opened up a possibility to influence and harmonize those policies. Within the CDAS, the exchange between the 26 cantons happened on an annual basis, while the Committees grouping regional cantons met more often.
A Committee Expert noted discrepancies in policies between the cantons and asked what documents were being used by the Conference and its Committees.
Responding, the delegate said that there was a huge effort at harmonization and that the Conference made recommendations to cantons, which they could accept or refuse. When making recommendations, the CDAS based itself on the text of the Convention and the concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
The National Prevention Program “Youth and Violence” is running at the federal level, which would be used by cantons as a basis to draft their own strategies.
The evaluation of the Law on Promotion of Children and Young People would be conducted in 2017. Each of the 26 cantons would receive from the Confederation CHF 450,000 over three years and the cantons should match this amount, meaning that each canton would invest CHF 900,000 into developing their child strategy.
The establishment of the national human rights institution had been a topic of discussion in Switzerland for several years. The Government had established the Centre of Expertise in Human Rights in 2011 tasked with conducting studies and research; the evaluation of this Centre would be undertaken in 2015, which would enable the Government to decide on the next step.
All draft laws must contain a chapter stating whether they were in compliance with the international obligations of Switzerland. In case of a conflict, international law had supremacy over domestic law; there were instances in which legislators could derogate, but the guarantees of human rights were always placed above national law.
New regional human rights education plans were in place for mandatory school levels; there were differences between regions in terms of content. Some cantons had laws on schools which dealt with the curriculum and the participation of children.
The health workers and professionals involved in working with children and in providing assistance to victims received training courses on how to listen to children who were victims. The Swiss Foundation for the Protection of Children issued a number of thematic manuals, including on the protection of children in social work and the manual on early detection of abuse in children. Police and border control officers, lawyers, judges and magistrates received training in human trafficking, and specific training courses were provided for professionals in the tourism sector.
Further Questions by the Committee Experts
An Expert asked the delegation to comment on strategies and measures to address the increasing obesity rates, measures to promote breastfeeding, ensuring inclusion of children with autism and other disabilities in mainstream education, school absenteeism, access to schools by migrant children and learning of languages.
GEHAD MADI, Committee Expert acting as Country Rapporteur for the report of Switzerland, welcomed the new provisions of the Asylum Act guaranteeing rapid processing of asylum applications by unaccompanied children. Applications for asylum were dismissed if the asylum seeker failed to hand over travel or identity papers within 48 hours; did this rule apply to unaccompanied children as well? Children without papers faced multiple problems; would the Government be ready to grant them temporary residence to enable them to participate in day-to-day life and grant them access to mandatory and vocational education, and access to health care without the fear of being turned over to the police?
The conditions for family reunification were issues of reservations and the Committee hoped that those reservations would be lifted. The Cantons had competence in a number of areas relative to refugee children, which resulted in considerable differences in support provided to those children. Refugee and asylum-seeking children and their families were accommodated, in some cantons, in former nuclear and military shelters, which did not provide adequate housing conditions, especially for prolonged stay. The Country Rapporteur urged Switzerland to review its asylum law, policy and practice to ensure the application of the best interest of the child, and to grant Swiss citizenship to stateless children. What measures were in place to protect children from ethnic minorities, and the children of Roma in particular?
The Committee would continue to urge Switzerland to raise the age of criminal responsibility from the current age of 10, which was way below international standards. As a way of illustrating the need of such low age of criminal responsibility, Mr. Madi asked how many crimes, including serious crimes, had been committed by children aged 10 to 12 over the past three years.
Concerning criminalization of recruitment of children under the age of 18 by non-State armed groups, the Country Rapporteur remarked that non-State armed groups in Syria, Iraq and a number of other countries were now recruiting Europeans, including children under the age of 18. Were there any children recruited from Switzerland, how many children associated with armed conflict returned or arrived to the country, how were they identified and what kind of support and services did they enjoy?
Another Expert asked about strategies to deinstitutionalize child care and provide better support to families, inclusive education for children with special needs, the approach to treating children with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and recourse to drugs which were not beneficial in the long run.
The delegation was also asked about the application of “packing” - a technique whereby autistic children were wrapped tightly for up to an hour in wet sheets that had been refrigerated, and whether it would abandon psychoanalysis as a treatment of autistic children which was not successful; voluntary establishment of paternity; what happened to a child born to a Swiss parent through surrogacy abroad; and whether young children had the right to visit their parents in prison, and how the best interest of children was taken into account in criminal proceeding against their parents, particularly during sentencing. There seemed to be a problem with birth registration of children of foreign nationals; could the delegation comment and explain what was being done to address the issue?
Replies by the Delegation
In response to questions raised by the Experts, the delegation said that National Research Program 52 was a platform that united a number of research projects, which undertook study on a number of issues of concern; for example on the joint parental authority that had been introduced in July 2014.
Concerning terminology in the legislation, the delegation clarified the rationale behind the use of “well-being of the child” (“bien de l’enfant”, “Kindeswohl”) rather than “the best interest of the child” which was related to the multilingual nature of Switzerland and the need to translate laws in French, German and Italian. The legislator considered that the term “well-being” was more appropriate; it was implicitly recognized that the well-being of the child was a priority.
A Committee Expert referred to the terminology contained in the French version of the Convention, which was one of its official languages, and the Committee Chairperson said that well-being was only one part of the principle of the best interest of the child.
The delegation said that recent amendments to the civil procedure and the law on the protection of the child explicitly provided for the right of the child to be heard appropriately in all issues concerning him or her. In May 2014, Parliament had tasked the Government with carrying out a detailed analysis of the implementation of this crucial right, in cooperation with cantons; the aim was to identify good practices and weaknesses and come up with practical recommendations for implementation.
An adopted child under the age of 18 could receive data on his or her biological parents only if the child had legitimate interests to do so; legislative amendments on the adoption law were on the way, to extend the right of the minor child to obtain information about biological parents even in the absence of legitimate interest. Adoptive parents had an obligation to inform the child that he or she had been adopted according to the age and maturity of the child; the identity of biological parents would be kept confidential. The right to obtain information on one’s origin was also guaranteed to children born from assisted reproductive techniques, which in case of Switzerland included sperm donation.
Surrogacy abroad was not recognized and persons residing in Switzerland who used the services of a surrogate mother abroad were not considered legal parents of the child, even if their names were on the birth certificate. If the child was not related to either one of the parents listed on the birth certificate, he or she was considered parentless; in this case, relevant authorities would get involved and adoption procedures would be initiated. Once the adoption process was completed, the child would obtain Swiss citizenship.
Switzerland allocated 200,000 CHF every year to coordination of the implementation of the Convention and awareness raising. Switzerland had had service contracts since 2008 with Child Rights Network Switzerland, which monitored the implementation of child rights.
The Government was currently producing the report on the implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and would then develop a national strategy and action plan for the implementation of the Guiding Principles; it would be completed in 2015 and would contain both non-binding and complementary measures.
Concerning the prohibition of access to public spaces for minors after certain hours in some cantons and its possible violation of the right to association, the delegation said that this was not an absolute right and that limitations could be imposed. This decision was in the competence of communes and it could be contested with the superior administrative and judicial authority.
Corporal punishment of children was not explicitly prohibited because it was considered that the existing provisions on assault and battery already provided protection for children from violence. The law defined that the parental authority must serve the best interest of the child, and protect the intellectual, physical and emotional development of children. Switzerland recognized the importance of positively assisting parents and it had introduced measures to support families to prevent and combat violence within families. There had been sentences of parents or their partners for assault and violence against children; incidents were evaluated on a case-by-case basis, with the involvement of specialists. Switzerland had just initiated the project on reporting any suspicion of ill-treatment of children to protection authorities; a draft law on the subject was in the pipeline which would oblige all professionals in contact with children to report suspicions of ill-treatment, even professionals bound by confidentiality.
Despite generally good access to health services in the country, migrants were in poorer health than other parts of the society. A conference and a tri-partite dialogue had taken place which proposed a number of recommendations aimed at improving the health of migrants, including educating families with migrant background.
Regarding the assistance provided to unemployed mothers, the delegation said that there were no differences between cantons because social insurance provisions were governed by the federal legislation. In its 2010 strategy to combat poverty, the Confederation had recommended that cantons introduce complementary benefits to families whose income was below the poverty level; this recommendation was being applied by some cantons, in accordance with their financial situation. Other cantons were considering the implementation of this recommendation.
A Committee Expert wondered if complementary benefits were being recommended because the federal benefits were not sufficient for a family to live on.
The delegate said that social security benefits on the federal level were well established and applied in all cantons, while cantonal benefits from social assistance applied when social security benefits ran out or were not applicable any more. Complementary benefits to families were in the grey area between social security and social assistance.
The legal system in Switzerland was monist and international standards directly applied in the national law. There was no general law against discrimination in the country; there were a number of Parliamentary initiatives for general equality and anti-discrimination, but those proposed laws were rejected in the Parliament. Very few cases of discrimination were lodged in courts which indicated obstacles in access to justice for persons suffering discrimination.
On the situation of a minor whose parent had been returned to their country of origin, the delegation said that cantonal authorities assessed the situation of the child and the best interest of the child prevailed over the need to return the child with the parent.
Children born in Switzerland of stateless parents did not have the right to automatic citizenship. Stateless persons, if their residence was recognized by the authority, had residence papers, travel documents and enjoyed access to services such as health and education. Switzerland was already a member of the 1973 Convention to Reduce the Number of Stateless Persons; the accession to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness was not yet under consideration.
Several cantons were implementing suicide prevention strategies and others had targeted programmes in this matter. In addition, there were several national programmes, such as the Alliance against Depression programme which was implemented in 11 cantons and aimed to identify depression and treat it better to prevent depression-related suicide. The Federal Office of Public Health was drafting the national action plan to prevent suicide, which would be ready at the beginning of 2016.
Voices of those advocating for the creation of the Office of Ombudsmen were taken seriously, said a delegate, but the arguments had been rejected because most of the services which would be offered by this Office already existed in Switzerland and were being offered by various public and private providers on federal, cantonal and communal levels. It was more important to coordinate the existing measures rather than to create a new entity.
Questions by the Committee Experts on the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
BERNARD GASTAUD, Committee Expert acting as Country Rapporteur for the report of Switzerland, emphasized the impressive progress made by Switzerland in implementing legislation and establishing procedures to comply with the Optional Protocol, such as penalizing violations against children committed abroad in the recent reform of the Criminal Code. No study was carried out on the extent of sexual violence in the country, which was necessary to develop preventive strategies to combat this abuse. The age of legal protection was set at 16 in relation to pornography. Internet providers had volunteered to block access to dangerous sites and the Country Rapporteur wondered if all providers subscribed to this initiative and whether it was based in a Code of Conduct. Mr. Gastaud noted that there was no mechanism for monitoring of sexual delinquents upon their release and asked the delegation how this would be remedied, and to comment on the system of identification and social rehabilitation of children victims of trafficking and children victims of sexual exploitation.
Other Experts asked about measures to ensure proper assessment of the adoptive parents in cases of inter-country adoption from countries that were not party to the Hague Adoption Convention and the measures to disseminate the provisions of the Optional Protocol among the authorities, professionals and children.
Replies by the Delegation
Female genital mutilation was explicitly prohibited by article 124 of the Criminal Code; no instances of this practice had been reported so far. Awareness raising work on female genital mutilation had been delegated in 2006 to Caritas Switzerland, which provided information to professionals about the practice and the avenues to follow if this practice was identified or suspected. The programme also included measures at the community level. Female genital mutilation was part and parcel of the national programme on migration and health, and there was a Working Group which brought together all relevant actors to devise ways of further prevention. Treatment following female genital mutilation could be covered by the basic health insurance, and since 2014, female genital mutilation had been recognized as a full-fledged illness which allowed for a comprehensive treatment of physical and psychological consequences.
The Federal Office for Public Health had undertaken a study on attention deficit disorder, with or without hyperactivity, which explained the increase in the use of methylphenidate medication, for example Ritalin. The societal context led parents to consult with doctors and treat their children with such medication, in order to enable children to perform. One of the conclusions of the study was that it was not necessary to undertake measures to reduce the prescription of methylphenidate medication, but that careful monitoring of this issue was required.
The Swiss Nutrition Strategy 2013-2016 was based on the Sixth Report on Nutrition in Switzerland and identified key issues and activities in the specific themes of obesity, knowledge about nutrition, information provided to consumers and others. The Federal Office of Food Safety promoted and supported breastfeeding and the efforts of the Swiss Foundation for Breastfeeding. The Labour Law had been amended to guarantee the remuneration of breastfeeding breaks.
An Expert noted that maternity leave was very short in Switzerland and asked whether there were any plans to extend it to six months paid leave. The delegation said that the 14 weeks of paid maternity leave were in conformity with the European and ILO standards; extension beyond 14 weeks was not under discussions, but there were debates about the introduction of parental/paternity leave.
The legislation on disability covered all children with disabilities and not only children with autism, noted the delegation, adding that the law encouraged the inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream schools, provided that the best interest of the child was respected. The responsibility for education was on the shoulders of cantons. The inter-cantonal agreement of 2007 (entered into force in 2011) had set out principles of inclusive education, and favoured an integrated approach over the separation of children with disabilities. Switzerland had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities, which had become part of the national legal arsenal; it also promoted the principle of integrated education. “Packing” was not officially prohibited, but it was not reimbursed by health and invalidity insurance.
Switzerland was linguistically very diverse: 24 per cent of children had a foreign passport, and this percentage went up to 34 in some cantons. A great part of children spoke a language different from French, Italian or German at home.
Switzerland had made the commitment to protect the ethnic minority of travellers; approximately 600 children travelled with their parents, but during the winter they usually stopped and remained at a permanent address. There were special support programmes for the education of traveller children, but these efforts were hampered by the linguistic diversity of Swiss regions.
The age of criminal responsibility was fixed at 10 years of age, and the delegation stressed that the sanctions for children between the age of 10 and 15 could only be light and must be rehabilitative in nature; stringent measures could only be pronounced on children above the age of 15.
In response to earlier questions, the delegation said that there were a few cases of adolescents who had left Switzerland to join the Islamic State. There was a security task force in Switzerland which aimed to prevent the jihadists from going to zones of conflict and to prevent threats from returning ones. The Federal Council had created six new intelligence posts for monitoring of terrorism, and had earmarked two million CHF for that purpose for the next three years. Unaccompanied minors must be hosted in facilities adapted to their age and level of maturity, language abilities, gender, and travel companions.
The delegation said that it was up to cantons to establish measures of support for pregnant mothers and mothers in distress; one of such measures was “baby boxes”, where new born babies could be left anonymously and these were now used by five cantons. Baby boxes raised moral questions and might be in a legal grey zone, nevertheless they saved lives and the Government did not recommend discontinuing their use.
The national action plan against human trafficking brought together actors from various levels of the Government and contained more than 20 measures. Among the achievements were: the ratification in 2014 of the Council of Europe Convention on Protection of Children against sexual Exploitation and sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Convention) and the subsequent legislative amendments, the Ordnance on the prevention of human trafficking which created a legal basis for the State to finance the activities and undertake measures against trafficking in persons, and the appointment of a cantonal prosecutor for human trafficking. This year Switzerland would be assessed by the Council of Europe on the implementation of the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and the recommendations would be used as the basis for the elaboration of a new action plan. It was important to say that trafficking in children was mainly for purposes of begging and minor crimes.
There were three principal sources of data used to evaluate the dimension of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children: criminal authorities, child protection services and children themselves via various surveys. A survey of 320 child protection agencies had been carried out to build the full picture of the forms and prevalence of sexual violence against children.
GEHAD MADI, Committee Expert acting as Country Rapporteur for the report of Switzerland, expressed thanks and appreciation to the delegation and said that the Committee members raised the bar in the discussion because Switzerland was a developed country with the necessary resources and technical capabilities. Some issues remained unanswered, maybe because of the lack of time, said Mr. Madi, expressing hope that the concluding observations would be considered during the elaboration of the next periodic report.
STEPHAN CUENI, Head of the International Affairs Division, Federal Social Insurance Office of Switzerland, said that this had been a constructive and intensive dialogue with specialists in the matter. The proposals and observations of the Committee would certainly influence the Swiss legislation. Switzerland was a signatory to a very large number of international instruments; federalism was entirely compatible with Switzerland’s international obligations and the three levels of Government were entirely respectful of international law. Because of this system, it was sometimes hard to have an overview of efforts to uphold the rights of the child.
KIRSTEN SANDBERG, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the fruitful dialogue and welcomed the intention of Switzerland to make constructive use of the Committee’s concluding observations for the benefit of the children in the country.