Switzerland is a Member State of the Council of Europe (COE) and of the United Nations (UN), and has human rights obligations at the regional and universal levels.
Regional: European System
As a Member of the COE, Switzerland has ratified the European Convention on Human Rights and is subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. Switzerland has not ratified the European Social Charter. Its human rights policies and practices are monitored by the COE Commissioner for Human Rights, who identifies gaps in human rights protection, conducts country visits, engages in dialogue with States, and prepares thematic reports and advice.
Individuals and groups have submitted complaints of human rights violations committed by Switzerland to the European Court of Human Rights. For example, the Court held that Switzerland violated the rights to respect for private and family life and to a remedy when authorities prohibited an individual from leaving his small community based on unsubstantiated allegations that he had ties to terrorism, and when he had no way to contest those allegations. See ECtHR, Nada v. Switzerland [GC], no. 10593/08, ECHR 2012, Judgment of 12 September 2012. Additionally, the Court may grant interim measures to protect people in urgent situations of risk in Switzerland.
Switzerland is a party to the following regional human rights treaties:
- European Convention on Human Rights and several of its protocols
- COE Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence
- COE Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings
- European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
- Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
United Nations System
As a UN Member State, Switzerland is subject to the oversight of various UN human rights bodies, including the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review and thematic special procedures. As a party to specific universal human rights treaties, Switzerland’s policies and practices are monitored by UN treaty bodies. It has accepted the complaints procedure of three treaty bodies.
Switzerland has ratified the following UN human rights treaties:
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
- Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)
- Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED)
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
- Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
- International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
Switzerland has also ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR aimed at abolishing the death penalty, and optional protocols to the CRC addressing children in armed conflict and the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography. Switzerland has a duty to submit State reports to the UN treaty body associated with each UN human rights treaty Switzerland has ratified. These reports must be submitted on a periodic basis and describe the steps taken to implement the treaty provisions.
Switzerland has also ratified optional protocols and made appropriate declarations allowing individuals to submit complaints against the State alleging violations of the CAT, CEDAW, CRC, and CERD. Additionally, certain UN treaties contain inquiry procedures, which allow the UN treaty body to consider allegations of grave or systematic human rights violations. Switzerland has accepted the inquiry procedures of the CAT and CEDAW.
In April 2002, Switzerland extended a standing invitation to UN special procedures, which means that any such mandate holders are welcome to conduct visits in Switzerland. For example, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism visited Switzerland in 2006 and published a visit report in 2007.
For more information on Switzerland’s engagement with UN human rights bodies, visit http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/CHIndex.aspx.
Last updated: February 2020