Switzerland calls for the systematic exchange of prisoners in Syria at the Human Rights Council

Press release, 24.03.2017

The Human Rights Council brings its four-week March session to a close today in Geneva. Throughout the session, Switzerland advocated the assessment of the human rights situation by independent experts in various contexts, such as in Syria, South Sudan, Myanmar and Bahrain.

The Human Rights Council adopted over 40 resolutions between yesterday and today – including some on problematic country-specific situations. Concerning the Syrian Arab Republic, Switzerland supported extending the mandate of the Independent Commission of Inquiry. It called for the release of persons imprisoned on arbitrary grounds and the set-up of a mixed commission to enable the systematic exchange of prisoners and to establish the whereabouts of prisoners and persons who have been abducted or have been forcibly disappeared. In the case of South Sudan, Switzerland backed a mandate extension which also gives the existing commission of inquiry on human rights violations the task of gathering and retaining evidence and establishing responsibility – not least with a view to criminal proceedings. Switzerland also supported the creation of a fact-finding mission for Myanmar tasked with establishing the facts on suspected human rights violations, particularly in Rakhine state. 

Switzerland prioritized the issues of conflict prevention and abolition of the death penalty. Countries such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan and the Philippines were urged not to reintroduce the death penalty or to reinstitute the moratoriums they had previously introduced. At a panel discussion initiated by Switzerland on the death penalty, it was also evident that there is increasing recognition at international level that capital punishment violates the prohibition of torture. The prohibition of torture is binding on all states under international law. 

For some time Switzerland has been calling for the UN’s efforts in the fields of peace, security and human rights to be perceived as a whole to strengthen conflict prevention. In this vein Switzerland ensured that a high-ranking debate on the contribution of human rights to lasting peace could take place.    

Further information:

Press release on the opening of the session of 27 February 2017
Speech of 27 February 2017 by Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter at the opening of the 34th session of the Human Rights Council
Appeal of 13 June 2016
Switzerland at the UN Human Rights Council

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