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Campaign for human rights body gathers pace

Monitoring human rights in Switzerland gets a boost Keystone

Promoters of a Swiss human rights watchdog have joined forces, setting up a body with a number of heavyweights from the political and non-governmental scene.

This content was published on June 6, 2006 - 12:09

Switzerland was the driving force behind the new United Nations Human Rights Council, but little progress has been made towards creating a national institution until now.

While the idea of an independent institution has been around since 1993 when the UN recommended such organisation-building, seeds were only first sown in Switzerland in 2003.

Parliament accepted the concept at that time and instructed the foreign ministry to look into the matter.

However, there has been little movement since then and it was only on Tuesday that Switzerland came a step closer to having its own human rights institute.

Heavy support

More than 20 personalities and a handful of non-governmental organisations have thrown their weight behind the new pressure group, which aims to prepare the authorities and the public for the establishment of the new watchdog.

They include Council of Europe representative and Swiss senator, Dick Marty, human rights expert Walter Kälin and NGOs such as the Swiss branch of Amnesty International.

Speaking at the launch, Kälin said that Switzerland lagged behind the rest of the world. More than 50 countries already had their own institution to monitor human rights.

He added that human right abuses took place regularly in Switzerland, including violence against foreigners, discrimination, domestic violence and trafficking of women.

However, Amnesty predicted in March that the country was at least two years away from setting up such a body, given the political process required to make the institute a reality, which requires a change in the law.

Pressure to set up the watchdog increased last November when NGOs presented their own proposals to the government.

This followed the publication of a report by the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, Alvaro Gil-Robles, which recommended the creation of a national human rights institution.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The 1993 World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna recommended that nations set up institutions for the protection and promotion of human rights. Switzerland pledged to do so at the time.

In 2000 non-governmental organisations in Switzerland established a working group to push for a national human rights institution.

In December 2001 two parliamentarians – Vreni Müller Hemmi and Eugen David – proposed the creation of a federal human rights commission to monitor the situation in Switzerland and to ensure the country meets international standards.

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