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TITLE:  SWITZERLAND HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                          
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


Switzerland is a constitutional democracy with a federal 
structure.  Legislative power is vested in a bicameral 
Parliament.  Given the nation's linguistic and religious 
diversity, the Swiss political system emphasizes local and 
national political consensus and grants considerable autonomy 
to individual cantons.  Police duties are primarily a 
responsibility of the individual cantons, which have their own 
distinct police forces.  The national police authority has a 
coordinating role and relies on the cantons for actual law 

Switzerland's free enterprise industrial and service economy, 
highly dependent on international trade, provides a very high 
standard of living.  Although unemployment in 1993 reached 
unusually high levels, traditional labor peace persisted.

Human rights are widely respected.  The headquarters of major 
international human rights and humanitarian affairs 
organizations are located in Switzerland.  In June Parliament 
ratified the 1965 U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All 
Forms of Racial Discrimination.  However, rightwing opponents 
are seeking to overturn the implementing legislation via a 
popular referendum.  Switzerland has antiforeigner elements who 
express themselves through violence.  There were a number of 
violent incidents in 1993, but fewer than in each of the 
2 previous years.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no political or other extrajudicial killings.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of abductions or disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution proscribes such practices, and there were no 
reports of any violations.  There were no reports of police 
beatings or other abuse.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile is provided 
by law.  A detained person may not be held longer than 24 hours 
without a warrant of arrest issued by the magistrate conducting 
the preliminary investigation.  A suspect must immediately be 
shown the warrant and has the right to contact legal counsel as 
soon as a warrant is issued.  A suspect may be detained with a 
warrant until an investigation is completed, but the length of 
investigative detention is always reviewed by higher judicial 
authority, and investigations are typically completed quickly.  
Release on personal recognizance or bail is granted unless the 
examining magistrate believes the person is a danger to society 
or will not appear for trial.

There is no summary exile, nor is exile used as a means of 
political control, although non-Swiss convicted of crimes may 
receive sentences which include denial of reentry for a 
specific period following completion of a prison sentence.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for public trials.  All courts of 
first instance are cantonal courts, with right of appeal to the 
federal courts and freedom from interference by other branches 
of government.  Minor cases are tried by a single judge, 
difficult cases by a panel of judges, and murder or other 
serious crimes by a public jury.  Even the most serious cases 
are usually brought to trial within a few months.  There are no 
political prisoners.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

Police entry into the premises of a person suspected of a 
criminal offense is regulated by cantonal legislation.  
Regulations differ widely from canton to canton, but not, 
apparently, to the extent that they provide potential for 
abuse.  There were no reports of abuse in 1993.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

An independent press, effective judiciary, and democratic 
political system combine to ensure freedom of speech and 
press.  Groups or associations determined to be a potential 
threat to the State may have restrictions placed on their 
freedom of speech and press.  No groups were restricted during 
the year.

Federal antiracism legislation, enacted in June, but not yet in 
force, would permit the Federal Government to place 
restrictions--including speech and press restraints--on groups 
engaging in or advocating racial discrimination.  No groups are 
currently restricted.  The new legislation is controversial and 
may be submitted to Swiss voters for approval--perhaps in 
mid-1994--prior to its implementation.  Most broadcast media 
are government-funded but possess editorial autonomy, and 
foreign broadcast media are freely available.  Press and 
publishing are owned by private enterprises operated without 
government intervention.  Academic freedom is respected.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The only restriction on peaceful assembly and association is a 
requirement to obtain permits from police authorities before 
holding public meetings.  These are routinely granted unless 
authorities have reason to believe the meeting will lead to 

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Switzerland enjoys religious freedom.  There is no single state 
church, but individual cantons may support a particular church 
out of public funds, and most cantons do.  Foreign clergy are 
free to perform their duties.  The degree to which minority 
religious communities are explicitly recognized in law varies 
among the cantons.  Most cantons do not accord Jewish and other 
non-Christian religious communities the specific legal 
recognition and tax privileges enjoyed by the Catholic and 
Protestant churches.

The legal requirement for universal male military service 
provides no exemption for conscientious objectors.  They may 
apply for military service which does not entail bearing arms, 
but refusal to serve has nearly always led to prosecution and 
conviction.  A 1991 law stipulates that refusal to serve is a 
punishable offense, but if the refusal stems from reasons of 
conscience, the prescribed sentence is a period of alternative 
community service--up to a maximum of 6 months (which entails 
no criminal record)--rather than prison.  Those objecting to 
military service on grounds of conscience which are not 
recognized by the military tribunals--such as political 
grounds--and those failing to convince the tribunals that their 
refusal of military service is based on fundamental ethical 
values, continue to receive prison sentences and a criminal 
record.  However, Swiss voters gave the Federal Government a 
mandate in May 1992 to draft a new law abolishing the 
distinction between these two categories.  The legislation was 
still in preparation in late 1993.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Swiss citizens have freedom to travel in or outside the country 
and can emigrate without difficulty.  Switzerland has 
traditionally been a haven for refugees, but public concern 
over the growing number of asylum seekers, many of whom 
apparently come for economic reasons, generated pressure on the 
Government to implement swifter processing of asylum seekers in 
1992 and to expel more quickly those whose applications are 
rejected.  These expedited procedures remained in effect for 

There were some violent attacks against asylum seekers in 1993, 
including three arson attempts against asylum residences.  
Fewer such attacks occurred, however, than in each of the 2 
previous years.  Refugees whose applications are rejected are 
allowed to stay temporarily if their home country is torn by 
war or insurrection.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Switzerland is a highly developed constitutional democracy.  
There is universal adult suffrage by secret ballot in federal 
elections.  There is universal adult suffrage in cantonal 
elections as well, but a few half-cantons still retain the 
traditional "assembly of the people" style of voting by raising 
hands rather than by secret ballot.  Elections are free and 
contested actively by four major national parties and at least 
a dozen significant regional or minor parties.  Initiative and 
referendum procedures provide unusually intense popular 
involvement in the legislative process.

Participation by women in politics has been limited 
historically but continues to expand slowly.  Most women who 
would participate at the top levels of national political life  
continued to face psychological, social, and economic 
barriers.  However, gradual improvement has taken place.  
Although Swiss women have had the vote for only 22 years, they 
hold about 16 percent of the seats in Parliament.  The 
Parliamentary Faction Leader of the Social Democrats, one of 
the four parties in the governing coalition, is a woman, six 
women serve on cantonal executive councils, the Department for 
Foreign Affairs has three female ambassadors, and a woman is 
General Secretary of the Federal Assembly, one of the highest 
offices in the government administration.  In March Ruth 
Dreifuss was elected to the seven-member Federal Council 
(cabinet) and named Interior Minister.  She is the second woman 
and first Jewish person to reach Switzerland's highest 
political level.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernment Investigation of Alleged Violations of 
           Human Rights

Human rights advocacy groups in Switzerland concern themselves 
almost exclusively with lobbying the Swiss and other 
governments about the human rights situation in other countries.

Switzerland cooperates with international bodies and 
nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) in all areas of human 
rights.  All major international human rights groups are active 
in Switzerland, and some of the leading ones, e.g., the United 
Nations Human Rights Commission and the International Committee 
of the Red Cross (ICRC), are based there.  The ICRC is made up 
of Swiss nationals, and Swiss play prominent roles in other 
humanitarian nongovernmental organizations.

Sections 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Language, or Social Status


Although the Constitution prohibits discrimination against 
women in the work place, the Federal Government concluded in 
1992 that additional measures, including better implementation 
of existing legislation, were necessary to ensure equal pay and 
other benefits for women.  The Federal Minister of Justice 
proposed new legislation in February 1993 to implement more 
effectively constitutional prohibitions on discrimination 
against women.  For example, this legislation would reverse the 
burden of proof from the complainant to the accused in 
workplace discrimination cases.  The legislation is opposed, 
however, by some business interests and has not yet been 
considered by a parliamentary committee.  It is not likely to 
be enacted soon.  Several cases brought by women seeking equal 
pay with men under existing law were decided for the 
complainants by cantonal and federal courts in 1993.  The 
Federal Commission for Women's Rights and several private 
groups, e.g., the Federation of Women's Organizations, monitor 
and promote women's rights.  They have found that persistent 
discrimination has more social than legal causes.  
Nevertheless, a significant number of women in recent years 
have broken barriers in traditional male-dominated professions, 
such as medicine, law, and engineering, and the proportion of 
women to men in these professions has increased markedly over 
the last two decades.

Women gained equality within the state pension program as a 
result of parliamentary legislation in June 1992.  Married 
women are thereby entitled in their own right to half the 
benefits the couple receives and have the right to pay for a 
widower's benefit and make up any missed contributions for 
their husbands, as men can for their wives.  In addition, 
divorced women are entitled to half the pension rights of a 
couple, calculated on the highest earnings in the marriage.

Different treatment between men and women is most pronounced in 
the salaries and wages paid.  Despite the statutory requirement 
of equal pay for equivalent work, women's wages for identical 
work lag an average of 16 percent behind those of men.  The 
Government said in 1992 that it planned amendments to the law 
on sexual equality which would bar discrimination in 
employment, improve protection against dismissals, reverse the 
burden of proof in discrimination cases, and facilitate law 
suits by individual women against discriminatory employers, but 
no action was taken in 1993.

The only female member of the Federal Council, who is also the 
Interior Minister, citing the paucity of women in high 
positions in the labor force, stated that an important goal 
will be to determine how to get more women into positions of 

There is widespread agreement that violence against women is a 
significant problem.  The Federation of Women's Organizations 
and other women's advocacy groups have heightened public 
consciousness.  Each city has an emergency telephone number 
through which women who are victims of violence can obtain help 
and counseling, and special homes for abused women.  
Specialists work with police authorities to interview women who 
report attacks.  Laws exist against wife beating and similar 
crimes.  At year's end, it was not yet clear what effect these 
laws and an October 1992 change in the Penal Code, explicitly 
making spousal rape a criminal offense, would have on deterring 
violence against women.  While the Penal Code is established at 
the federal level, enforcement is the responsibility of the 
cantons and variations occur.


Legislation on assistance for victims of violent crimes, which 
entered into force on January 1, 1993, addresses the protection 
of children from such abuses.  The Swiss Association for the 
Protection of Children, an NGO, is active in monitoring and 
advocating childrens' rights.  It advocates legislation to 
create and strengthen the rights of the children of foreigners, 
including seasonal workers.

Regarding statutory rape, the Federal Council (Cabinet) 
proposed lowering the age of consent from 16 to 14, but this 
was rejected by Parliament.  Instead, Parliament approved new 
legislation, which took effect in January 1993, requiring that 
a person accused of statutory rape must be at least 16 and more 
than 3 years older than the accuser.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Citizens comprising Italian and Romansch linguistic minorities 
(respectively about 5 and 1 percent of the population) 
continued to express concern that the limited resources made 
available to them by the Federal Government to support 
education and media endanger the intellectual vitality of these 
languages.  In October 1992, the Federal Government withdrew 
legislation which would have made Romansch an official 
language.  Citing the significant administrative costs of 
implementing such a measure, the Government held that 
preservation of language was basically a matter for individual 
cantons to address.

Foreigners comprise about 18 percent of the population and 27 
percent of the total work force.  Residence permits are limited 
for foreigners; for example, foreign workers with seasonal stay 
permits are not allowed to bring their families.  These 
limitations apply to all non-Swiss.  Parliament approved the 
country's first federal legislation against racial 
discrimination, based on the 1965 U.N. Convention on the 
Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, in June.  It 
would penalize race-motivated discrimination and hate speech.  
Previously, the cantonal governments had exclusive authority to 
handle racial discrimination cases.  Rightwing groups began to 
collect signatures to bring the antiracism legislation to a 
national vote.  There is no discrimination on religious 
grounds, but taxation privileges accorded to churches and 
religious groups vary according to cantonal practice.

Although authorities suspect that arson caused the deaths of 
five asylum-seekers in 1992, they never issued a definitive 
conclusion about the fires, and no arrests were made.  A Swiss 
man was sentenced to 5 years' imprisonment in 1993 for a 1991 
arson attack on an asylum residence in Thun in which there were 
no fatalities.  Right-wing organizations, especially extremist 
organizations, represent only a small minority.  There were 
sporadic violent attacks against foreigners or their property 
in 1993, including 3 firebombings.  Although preliminary 
official figures show a significant decrease in attacks since 
1991, statistics are not comprehensive, because some incidents 
are not reported or are ignored by police authorities.  A 1993 
report by state protection forces, commissioned by the Federal 
Council, concluded that past investigations were almost 
exclusively directed against leftwing organizations, ignoring 
any danger from the right.  There is also evidence that some 
police may actually sympathize with rightwing groups.  A Swiss 
journalist who wrote sympathetically about foreigners and 
documented attacks against them claimed to have been beaten and 
subjected to numerous threats of violence prior to relocating 
in another city.

     People with Disabilities

An umbrella organization representing most disabled persons' 
rights associations is active politically.  It is particularly 
involved in issues concerning the transport and mobility of 
disabled persons.  It advocates the revision of federal 
legislation on insurance for the disabled, urging better social 
integration and professional training for them.  The 
organization also favors a federal antidiscrimination law.  The 
Federal Government has advocated physical accessibility to 
public buildings for the disabled, but no legislation has been 

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

All workers, including foreign workers in Switzerland, have 
freedom to associate freely, to join unions of their choice, 
and to select their own representatives.  However, less than 15 
percent of the country's labor force belongs to a union.  The 
change from an industrial to a service-based economy, the high 
standard of living shared by a prosperous work force, and the 
Swiss system of referendums and initiatives (which accords 
citizens a voice on important political, social, and economic 
issues) are among the reasons for the lack of interest in union 
membership.  Officials estimate that about 50 percent of all 
Swiss workers are covered by collective agreements.  Unions are 
free to publicize their views and determine their own policies 
to represent members' interests without government 
interference.  Unions may join federations or affiliate with 
international bodies.  The Swiss Trade Union Federation belongs 
to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the 
World Confederation of Labor, as well as to the European Trade 
Union Confederation.

The right to strike is legally recognized, but a unique 
informal labor peace agreement between unions and employers, in 
existence since the 1930's, has meant fewer than 20 strikes per 
year since 1975.  There were no significant strikes in 1993.  
Federal employees and most cantonal and local employees do not 
have the right to strike.  The only exception is the Canton of 
Jura, where both local and cantonal authorities have this right.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Swiss law gives workers the right to organize and bargain 
collectively and protects them from acts of antiunion 
discrimination.  Employers found guilty of such discrimination 
are not required to reinstate workers fired for union 
activities but must pay an indemnity to the workers.  The 
Government encourages voluntary negotiations between employer 
and worker organizations, although for the most part employers 
and workers alike (in common with most Swiss institutions) seek 
to exclude the Government from involvement in their affairs.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

There is no forced or compulsory labor, although there is no 
specific statute or constitutional ban on it.

     d.  Minimum Wage for Employment of Children

The minimum age for employment of children is 15 years.  
Children over 13 may be employed in light duties (e.g., helping 
in retail stores) for not more than 9 hours a week during the 
school year and 15 hours otherwise.  Employment between ages 15 
and 20 is strictly regulated.  For example, youths may not work 
at night, on Sundays, or under hazardous or dangerous 
conditions.  These laws are observed in practice and enforced 
through inspections by the Federal Office of Industry, Trades, 
and Labor.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no national minimum wage.  Employer associations and 
unions negotiate industrial wages during the collective 
bargaining process.  Such wage agreements are also widely 
observed by nonunion establishments.  The Labor Act established 
a maximum 45-hour workweek for blue- and white-collar workers 
in industry, services, and retail trades, and a 50-hour 
workweek for all other workers.  The workweek for blue-collar 
workers in most industries is 43 hours and for white-collar 
workers 40 to 43 hours.  Overtime is limited by law to 120 
hours annually.  The 1948 Labor Law bans night and Sunday work 
for women in industry.  The economy was until recently at or 
near full employment.  The resulting take-home pay provides 
Swiss workers and their families with a very high standard of 

The Labor Act and the Federal Code of Obligations contain 
extensive regulations to protect worker health and safety.  The 
regulations are rigorously enforced by the Federal Office of 
Industry, Trades, and Labor, providing a high standard of 
worker health and safety.  No explicit provision in Swiss law 
accords an employee the right to leave his place or work 
without prejudice in case of occupational hazard.  Some have 
sought justification for such a right in more general 
principles of Swiss law, but this interpretation remains 
subject to considerable criticism and controversy.  Swiss 
employees have the right to file a complaint with an 
appropriate governmental regulatory body against employers who 
fail to adhere to regulations on employee safety.  The 
Government in 1993 continued to work on a complete revision of 
the Labor Law dating from 1948.

There were no allegations of workers rights abuses from 
domestic or foreign sources.

[end of document]


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