Human rights protect human beings and their dignity in war and in peacetime. These rights are protected under international law and it is the duty of states to ensure they are respected, protected and fulfilled. To this end, the United Nations has developed a body of binding conventions, all stemming from the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
There are basically three distinct types of human rights:
- civil and political rights, e.g. the right to life, peaceful assembly and religious freedom
- economic, social and cultural rights, e.g. the right to work, to education, and to social security
- rights of the third generation, e.g. the right to development and to a clean and healthy environment
United Nations Conventions
The principal United Nations conventions on human rights are the
Unlike the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the above conventions are binding on states parties. Switzerland has ratified all except the last two. It has signed the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and preparatory work for its ratification is underway.
Council of Europe Cconventions
The principal Council of Europe conventions on human rights are:
- The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ECHR (CETS no. 005) and its Additional Protocols
Switzerland ratified the ECHR and Additional Protocol 6, 7 and 13. It signed Additional Protocol 1 in 1976.
- The European Social Charter and the European Social Charter (Revised)
Switzerland signed the original 1961 European Social Charter in 1976. The Federal Council adopted a report on the compatibility of the revised European Social Charter with Swiss law on 2 July 2014.
- Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
Switzerland ratified the convention in 1998.
- Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings
Switzerland ratified the convention in 2012.
- Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Convention)Switzerland ratified the convention in 2014.
- Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul convention)
Switzerland signed the convention in 2013.
The principal UN conventions on human rights establish committees to monitor compliance with their provisions. They provide for a mandatory reporting procedure whereby states which have ratified the conventions submit reports to the relevant committee on the way in which they have fulfilled their human rights obligations. The committee examines the reports and formulates recommendations.
At the Council of Europe level, the main human rights conventions have a monitoring mechanism to review the application of their provisions. This is binding on states parties, which undertake to submit periodic implementation reports to the relevant monitoring body or to respond to any evaluation questionnaires. The monitoring body goes on to formulate its conclusions and recommendations. Implementation of the ECHR is monitored by the European Court of Human Rights, which rules on individual or state requests alleging violations of human rights.