Switzerland defends human rights defenders

Bern, 10.12.2013 - To mark Human Rights Day today, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) honours individuals who work to ensure compliance with universally recognised human rights. At a press conference in Zurich, State Secretary Yves Rossier and Ambassador Claude Wild affirmed that in future, the FDFA wants to offer human rights defenders more effective support and better protection against arbitrary treatment by state authorities. The "Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders", which the Federal Council recently took cognisance of, offer an important basis for this.

Protecting and promoting human rights and fostering the strengthening of the rule of law are objectives of Swiss foreign policy. This mandate is derived from the Federal Constitution (Art. 54). The foreign policy strategy 2012 – 2015 stipulates which specific Swiss values and interests are to be safeguarded. These objectives can, however, only be achieved if internationally recognised human rights norms and standards are actually implemented. Human rights defenders play a key role in this respect. Human rights defenders are private individuals or representatives of non-governmental organisations who work to protect and ensure respect for the rights and freedoms not only of individuals but also of entire population groups. It is not uncommon for them to be prevented from carrying out their work, intimidated and subjected to death threats or repressive measures.

The FDFA has long supported the work of human rights defenders as part of its human rights foreign policy. It now recognises their crucially important work in, among other documents, the "Federal Council dispatch on the continuation of measures to promote peace and human security in the period 2012 – 2016". The FDFA is actively committed to the protection of human rights defenders. For instance, it intervenes with governments whose authorities hinder or threaten human rights defenders in the course of their work.
In order to standardise Swiss practice in this area, the FDFA has developed the "Swiss Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders". These guidelines are intended to serve Swiss representations abroad and other institutions and organisations as a concrete reference and tool to ensure better protection for human rights defenders. During the presentation of the guidelines earlier today in Zurich, FDFA State Secretary Yves Rossier affirmed Switzerland's determination to provide stronger and more effective protection to these brave men and women in the future. Ambassador Claude Wild, head of the FDFA Human Security Division (HSD), then provided an overview of the priority areas of Switzerland's human rights foreign policy.

Alice Nkom, a lawyer from Cameroon whose work focuses on the human rights of sexual minorities, spoke about the experiences and the challenges she faces as a human rights lawyer.

An exhibition of photographs by the Swiss-French photographer Daniel Schweizer will be opened at 5 p.m. today at the FLUX Laboratory in Zurich's Schiffbau 5 centre. The exhibition shows portraits of human rights defenders who are fighting for human rights in the extractive industry. The exhibition is part of the first Zurich edition of the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH-Zurich).

Address for enquiries

FDFA Communication
Federal Palace West Wing
CH-3003 Bern, Switzerland
Tel. Press service: +41 58 460 55 55
E-mail: kommunikation@eda.admin.ch
Twitter: @SwissMFA


Federal Department of Foreign Affairs