The result was clear: the resolution on the death penalty was adopted by the Human Rights Council by 28 votes to 11, with 7 abstentions. This is a convincing success for Switzerland after long and arduous negotiations on a divisive issue. The new resolution on the death penalty was submitted by Switzerland, Belgium, Benin, Costa Rica, France, Mexico, Mongolia and the Republic of Moldova. It addresses the human rights violations that arise from the use of capital punishment and calls for international standards to counteract this. The Council’s concrete aim is to limit the scope of the death penalty, focusing on a particular theme each time.
This year's text focuses on the right to seek pardon or commutation of sentence and the right of appeal. The resolution, which was voted on today, thus contains key provisions that strengthen these basic procedural rights. An appeal to retentionist states to put an end to the mandatory death penalty, which does not allow the courts any leeway, was also launched.
Growing workload for the Council
The Human Rights Council's workload is growing against a backdrop of increasingly frequent and protracted crises. The longer and more intense Council sessions demonstrate how the human rights situation overall is worsening while the search for dialogue and solutions is also becoming increasingly difficult.
The situation in Sudan, for example, has rapidly deteriorated since the Council's special session in May 2023. Switzerland remains committed to ensuring that perpetrators of human rights abuses are held to account and to strengthening the fight against impunity, and has taken part in the dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation in the country. It has condemned the continuing violence and called for an investigation into the allegations of human rights abuses in Sudan as well as supporting a resolution to set up a fact-finding mission to investigate violations committed during the ongoing armed conflict.
The Council's 54th session also focused on the situation in Russia, hosting for the first time a dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Russian Federation whose mandate was created last October. During the dialogue, Switzerland expressed its concerns about the repression of journalists, human rights defenders and civil society. It also supported the draft resolution on the human rights situation in Russia during the negotiations as well as the renewal of the special rapporteur's mandate.
Other mandate renewals and appointments
Together with Argentina and Morocco, Switzerland also introduced a resolution on renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, created in 2011. The resolution was adopted by consensus.
It reaffirms the importance of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence as key pillars during the entire transitional justice process. These are vital principles in contexts where grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law have been committed. Transitional justice measures are key to combating impunity, breaking the cycle of violence, restoring the dignity of victims, and preventing future crises.
The 54th session also saw the Council appoint a Swiss candidate as the new Special Rapporteur on minority issues. Nicolas Levrat, who is the head of the Global Studies Institute at the University of Geneva, will take up his post in shortly. UN special rapporteurs carry out their mandates as independent and impartial experts.
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