The UN in Geneva. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
A UN panel on Thursday quizzed a Swiss government delegation about the country’s efforts to improve human rights in the past four years, urging it to work further on combating violence against women, racism, xenophobia and the discrimination of migrants.
Pascale Baeriswyl of the Swiss foreign affairs department stood before the panel in Geneva to defend Switzerland’s human rights record as part of the UN’s universal periodic review system, a four-yearly process in which every member state must outline what it has done and is still doing to improve human rights.
The Swiss government’s plan to establish a national human rights institution – a draft bill for which was opened for consultation earlier this year – was hailed by several UN member states, reported news agencies.
An independent body attached to one or more of Switzerland’s higher education institutions, it would serve to protect and promote human rights in the country.
However several countries called on Switzerland to work harder to combat racism, xenophobia and intolerance, pointing to the rise of the “extreme right”.
A national plan or even a new law to protect against discrimination, particularly towards migrants, should be considered, said some, a suggestion Baeriswyl rejected, saying current legislation was sufficient.
Switzerland was also criticized for not yet adopting the European convention on preventing and combating violence against women, though parliament is currently working towards its ratification.
Speaking to the panel Baeriswyl said Switzerland considered itself to have a good level of human rights but that “no country should be complacent” and protecting these rights was a continual process.
The review panel will compile a report, due next week, before Switzerland must say which of the panel’s recommendations it agrees to pursue.