National human rights institution to be established in Switzerland

Bern, 13.12.2019 - On 13 December 2019, the Federal Council approved the proposal to establish a national human rights institution (NHRI). The Federal Council has thereby strengthened its constitutionally enshrined commitment to human rights. With the model of a public corporation, it takes into account the results of the consultation procedure. The NHRI will be independent, include members from across society and receive an annual financial support from the Confederation.

The creation of a Swiss NHRI has long been on the political agenda. It meets both a foreign policy demand of the United Nations and a domestic political expectation. Over 120 states, including almost all European countries, already have such an institution.

As an independent organisation, the NHRI will be able to work together with government authorities at all levels as well as with NGOs, the private sector, the academic community and international organisations, and to support their human rights activities.

Since 2011, Switzerland has had a Swiss Centre of Expertise in Human Rights (SCHR) as a temporary pilot project. An external evaluation has confirmed the demand for the services of such an institution and the benefits for Switzerland.

The proposal is intended to replace the pilot project with a permanent, legally anchored NHRI in the form of a public corporation. This model takes into account both the results of the consultation procedure and the requirements of the UN. In order to avoid a gap between the pilot project, which runs until the end of 2020, and the NHRI, the pilot project will be extended for a further two years.

Lean, independent and stable institution

The NHRI will be integrated into the Federal Act on Measures for Civilian Peacebuilding and the Promotion of Human Rights (SR 193.9) (de, fr, it). It will have its own legal personality and the necessary independence. It will therefore be able to determine its own activities within the framework of its mandate and react quickly to developments as they occur. Its tasks include information and documentation, research, advisory services, human rights education and awareness-raising, and international exchange. In addition to domestic human rights issues, the NHRI's mandate will also encompass issues relating to the implementation of international human rights obligations in Switzerland. However, the NHRI will not assume administrative or ombudsman responsibilities nor handle individual cases.

As in the pilot project, the Confederation will provide the NHRI with financial assistance of 1 million Swiss francs per year. Like the SCHR, the NHRI will be affiliated with one or several universities. The Federal Council is keen to establish the NHRI in close partnership with the cantons. These contribute significantly to the good human rights situation in Switzerland by international standards and play a major role in the protection of human rights.

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