March 2017, Manila, Philippines Demonstrators hold up a black sign that says: No to death penalty.
The death penalty infringes on human dignity and human rights. © Shutterstock

Freedom of expression

Switzerland supports the right to freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of free and democratic societies. It includes the right to form and express one’s own opinions, and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds. Freedom of the press and the work of media professionals play a central role in the realisation of this right. 

Digitalisation has greatly expanded our opportunities for communication. In shaping digital governance (rules for the digital space), it is important to ensure that the right to freedom of expression is also safeguarded online. Switzerland also works to ensure that freedom of expression is not used as a cover for hate speech that incites violence and discrimination.

Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, United Nations

Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, United Nations

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media

UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity

A world without the death penalty

Switzerland is committed to a world without the death penalty. The legal position of both Switzerland and the Council of Europe is that the death penalty violates the prohibition against torture and ill-treatment, as well as the right to life. This position is not shared by all states. For that reason, Switzerland works to build international consensus around the idea that the death penalty is incompatible with human rights.

The broad-based approach adopted by Switzerland and its partners has proved effective: more and more countries have instituted moratoriums or abolished the death penalty in recent years, with only a minority of states still employing this punishment.

FDFA Action Plan for the Universal Abolition of the Death Penalty 2017–2019

Moving Away from the Death Penalty: Arguments, Trends and Perspectives, UN

Switzerland tables new Human Rights Council resolution for the abolition of the death penalty, press release, 27.09.2019

Ban on torture and ill-treatment

Switzerland is committed to upholding the ban on torture and ill-treatment. International law prohibits torture at all times and under all circumstances. Despite this absolute ban, torture remains widespread in times of peace as well as in armed conflicts. The negative impact of torture on individuals and entire societies constitutes a threat to peace and security. 

Nonetheless, there have been some positive developments: more and more states are ratifying the UN Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocol. Both agreements contain clear provisions on protecting individuals from torture through prevention, punishment and redress for victims, as well as the monitoring of places of detention via independent bodies. The implementation of these agreements is leading to a verifiable decrease in the use of torture.

FDFA Action Plan against Torture

Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)

Protection of minorities

Switzerland, a country whose identity is grounded in diversity and coexistence among different linguistic communities and other groups, is committed to the protection of minorities and vulnerable groups.

The Universal Declaration of Human rights states that all human beings are "born free and equal in dignity and rights". The prohibition of discrimination is a closely related idea that is enshrined in various international treaties.

Linguistic, religious, ethnic, national and other minorities are under pressure in all regions of the world. Some are subject to systematic persecution. Ongoing conflicts and political instability contribute to discrimination against minorities, and are often the cause of it. 

In its work, Switzerland follows a holistic approach that respects and promotes the rights of all minority groups (linguistic, religious, ethnic and national) alike.

Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities

Special Rapporteur on minority issues, United Nations

Last update 25.07.2023


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