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Universal Periodic Review

Second session meeting highlights

8 May 2008 (morning)
For use of information media; not an official record

The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Switzerland this morning, during which 42 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

This morning, the Working Group also adopted, ad referendum, the report on Peru, following the review of the country on Tuesday, 6 May.

Presenting the national report of Switzerland wasMICHELINE CALMY-REY, Head of the Swiss Federal Department for Foreign Affairs, said her country was convinced that the Universal Periodic Review had the potential to improve the human rights’ situations around the world. In preparing its Universal Periodic Review report Switzerland followed the structure of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The close interlinks between public authorities and local communities in Switzerland was manifested through popular consultations and led to realistic and viable solutions which were broadly supported. This common approach was undertaken in an effort to support the State’s objective to ensure that people residing in Switzerland enjoyed their human rights. This approach was also taken in drafting the national report for the Universal Periodic Review. Moreover, the concerns of non-governmental organizations were the subject of discussion and were given priority in Switzerland. The head of delegation recalled that a network of parliamentarians met over the last few months and drafted a report for the Federal Government on the feasibility of setting up a national human rights institution. As regards the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Switzerland considered that the provisions of the Covenant served as guidelines to the State’s legislation and policies on civil and political issues. The Federal Council has embarked on negotiations to ensure that these provisions were reflected in internal policies.

Any international treaty ratified by Switzerland immediately became part of national legislation, Ms. Calmy-Rey stated. Among other measures being taken, the Government was currently exploring the possibility of ratifying the Conventions on enforced and involuntary disappearances and on disabled persons. Switzerland had already set up a series of laws to counter the various types of discrimination. Furthermore, there were penal provisions and laws that promoted equality between men and women. There was also a law that eliminated inequalities for disabled persons. Education and training measures were in place that allowed for the vast majority of men and women to enter the work force as well as to integrate foreigners and to allow a better understanding of different cultures. All persons participated in the decision-making process and there was great transparency in political debates. Efforts were made to ensure that various sectors in society were able to express their views. The Universal Periodic Review represented a real step forward and made possible a venue to allow people to listen to one another and make concrete statements.

In response to questions submitted in advance, the head of delegation noted that, as regards the law on political asylum, there was relevant government body that dealt with asylum requests. As of 1 January 2007 it was possible for a residence permits to be provided to asylum seekers if conditions were met. The new law on foreigners upheld the principle of integration. The aim of the State was to ensure equal opportunities for foreigners and to allow them to participate in social life on an equal basis with others in the country. It was noted that 21% of the population in Switzerland were foreigners. In April this year the Government set up an action plan that spelled out concrete measures to address pending concerns in terms of asylum status. As to gender equality, there had been various awareness raising campaigns organized to promote equality between men and women in society. Bearing in mind that women were often the domestic caregivers, financial assistance was made available to ensure that children had access to crèches and efforts were being made throughout the country to ensure that children could all attend school. A number of projects have also been put in place to promote equal wages between men and women. Concerning the ill treatment of children, it was noted that corporal punishment at school was prohibited in Switzerland; the Federal Constitution respected the physical integrity of young people and degrading treatment was prohibited by law. Any physical punishment of a child was punishable and prosecutable.

During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included The various efforts of the State to uphold the rights of the child, the rights to education and the rights of disabled persons; efforts to promote a non-gender specific language; efforts to combat all forms of racial discrimination; the establishment of the Federal Service for Combating Racism and the Federal Commission Against Racism; progress made in respecting and protecting women’s rights; the establishment of the Swiss Council on Religions; the Swiss model of direct democracy; efforts to promote and protect the rights of migrants; that Switzerland volunteered to undergo its Universal Periodic Review; to cooperation between Federal authorities and civil society on human rights matters; the promotion of the Global Forum on Migration and Development; and the standing invitation to all Special Procedures mandate holders.

Issues and questions raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and Observers participating in the interactive discussion related to the steps taken to follow up to on the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; main steps take in the promotion and the fulfilment to combat racism and other forms of discrimination in Switzerland; efforts to develop a specific law on the incitement to racial discrimination and hatred; efforts to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation; steps taken to ensure that religious minorities were not discriminated against; the reaction of the Swiss Government to the criticisms by various international bodies to the Swiss legislation on foreigners and asylum on grounds that they discriminated against non-European nationals; specific actions taken to combat discrimination against the Muslim community in Switzerland; possibilities of increasing the participation of minority groups in politics; and the position of the State with regard to the relationship between its declarations stating its intolerance of combating racial, national, or religious discrimination and existing and existing acts of discrimination.

Other issues pertained to the main aspects of the policies, concerted steps and forward looking measures regarding the issue of the treatment and human rights of migrants; information on policies and measures adopted to guarantee the rights of women migrant workers; the reasons why slavery was not prohibited in Switzerland; how new forms of slavery were combated, in particular sexual exploitation, and plans to combat prostitution; the intention of the State to provide a definition of the discrimination against women; the intention of the State to propose extra measures to achieve equal payment between men and women; steps taken to implement the recommendations by CEDAW to prevent and prosecute cases of trafficking in women and girls; the concrete steps taken in the promotion and fulfilment of the rights of the child; and steps taken to prohibit corporal punishment.

Additional subjects raised concerned plans to implement popular initiatives which seemed to be contrary to human rights; measures planned to provide a definition of torture in Switzerland; study on the compatibility between the 1967 protocol on refugees and the 1951 Convention on Refugees; efforts to meet the objective of 0.7% Official Development Assistance; measures planned to deal with the high rate of suicide in Switzerland; the status of establishing a country-by-country human rights index; efforts to ensure that the authorities in all cantons and communities were aware of international human rights norms and duly respected them; efforts to ensure the right to housing; the State’s laws and policies on same sex couples; whether Switzerland intended to guarantee that its naturalization processes were in compliance with its international human rights obligations; and the explanation of that 35.7% of people in Switzerland reportedly possessed firearms in view of the country being seen as a "calm State".

A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included:To establish a national institution devoted to the promotion and protection of human rights based on the Paris Principles; to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers; to undertake measures to address concerns relating to human rights of foreign communities and national minorities for better integration into Swiss society; to recruit minorities to the police force as well as set up a body to investigate any complain lodged against the police force; to foster an international analysis on the law on asylum; to take measures to prevent that migrant women became victims of sexual and domestic violence and or trafficking and report on such cases; and to formulate a comprehensive strategy to address the exploitation any violence against migrant women.

Other recommendations included: To establish a specific law on the incitement to religious and racial hatred; and to considered withdrawing its reservation to article 4 of the Convention of the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; to ensure the respect of all religions and equal treatment of all; to further enhance combating the root causes of discrimination, particularly of foreign migrant women, by removing legal and systematic obstacles to equal rights; to take necessary steps to prevent the incidents of acts of violence, with racist and xenophobic undertones, by security agents against foreigners, immigrants and asylum seekers and bring to justice perpetrators of such acts; to consider establishing a national commission for women; and to consider ratifying the Optional Protocol to the CEDAW and to lift its reservation to Convention.

Additional recommendations made by States included: To ratify the Optional Protocol on Convention against Torture, and to set up a national institution of the prevention of torture; to ratify the Convention on the rights of disabled persons; to accede to Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; to support the recommendations to the Committee on the Rights of the Child; to take measures to ensure that human rights could be taken into account at an earlier stage when popular interventions were launched on domestic laws; to maintain judicial recourse in the granting of citizenship; to ensure that persons under 18 in detention received different treatment to other inmates; to follow up on its study concerning the Convention and enforced and involuntary disappearances and to accede to the Convention; and for the State to consider increasing its support and assistance to developing toe developing counties.

Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Brazil, India, Malaysia, Egypt, Canada, France, Mexico, Cuba, China, Slovenia, the Netherlands, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, Qatar, Senegal, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, Romania, Japan, Guatemala, Nigeria, Germany, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jordan and Italy.

Observer States participating in the discussion were Algeria, Belgium, Morocco, Colombia, Turkey, Cote d’Ivoire, Portugal, Finland, Norway, Iran, Thailand, Haiti, Chile, Ukraine and Mauritania.

The 23-person delegation of Switzerland consisted of representatives of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, the Federal Department of Justice and the Police, the Federal Department of the Interior, the Federal Department of the Economy and the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Switzerland are Uruguay, Pakistan and South Africa.

In accordance with its institution-building package, the three documents on which State reviews should be based are information prepared by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and Special Procedures, to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions and research institutes, regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document. The report of Switzerland can be found here.

Adoption of report on Peru: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Peru are Mali, India and Cuba. Introducing the report JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ (Peru) expressed thanks to delegation of Peru and to the troika for their cooperation in the successful conclusion of the report. The interaction of the troika with the delegation of Peru was characterized by its frankness and constructiveness. Representing the State under review, ROSARIO FERNANDEZ, Minister of Justice of Peru, said Peru welcomed the recommendations made by States and would view them constructively. The delegation would continue its dialogue with national stakeholders involved in human rights in the follow up process to the review.

The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Switzerland on Tuesday, 13 May.

When the UPR Working Group continues its work this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. it will reviewthe fulfillment ofhuman rights obligations by Pakistan after which it is scheduled to adopt the report of Guatemala.

Additional information on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism can be located at the UPR webpage -

To access the webcast for the UPR session please visit