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The Swiss Confederation firmly disapproves of the death penalty as an option for criminal punishment under any circumstances and in all parts of the world. Switzerland shares the same mind-set as the UNHRC on this issue, i.e. the death penalty breaches two essential human rights- the right to life and respect for human dignity and both these are of immense priority to the Swiss foreign policy on human rights. We believe that capital punishment is irreconcilable with human rights, especially due to the fact that once carried out it is irremediable. Switzerland, personally, has been a frim abolitionist in the field of death penalty for decades. The Swiss Criminal Code negated capital punishment for ordinary felonies in 1942 and completely annihilated its usage, including in martial law, in the year 1992. The last time the Swiss judiciary carried out the death penalty in Switzerland was in the long-gone 1940s when, during the Second World War, 17 Swiss Armed Force members were executed due to extreme treason. Switzerland intents to take part in the abolition of capital punishment, or at the very least a moratorium, all across the globe by 2025, the aim set by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA)’s ‘Strategy on the Universal Abolition of the Death Penalty’.
The FDFA’s strategy and current workings have been on a few specific agendas- urging all retentionist nations to ban the death penalty from their state legislations, or primarily to inhibit its usage; taking all possible attempts for retentionist countries to reduce the annual death sentence number; encourage nations which still carry out the death penalty to match up with minimum standards of international legislations; toughening international framework norms by working alongside the United Nations. Switzerland has been actively collaborating with several international organisations like the Death Penalty Project, the NGO- World Coalition Against the Death Penalty and an international body of lawyers by the name International Commission against the Death Penalty. On the other hand, we’ve been earnestly participating in many research projects which look to enhance the understanding of the various elements of the death penalty, changing public opinion, what can act as a deterrent and possible misjudgements of justice. When it comes to our history with the United Nations, the SwissConfederation has been responsible for drafting many UN resolutions including the UN General Assembly resolutions for a moratorium on the death penalty and HRC resolutions regarding the human rights violations suffered by persons awaiting execution and their loved ones. We have also ratified several international treaties, namely- ‘The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which aims to abolish the death penalty’, ‘Prohibition of capital punishment in the Convention on the Rights of the Child’, ‘Protocol No. 13 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances’.
Switzerland believes that even though there is being much done to abolish the death penalty, yet there is room for more. Clearly so, as yet to date, in comparison to the 106 abolitionist nations, there are 38 countries which still use and enforce death penalty, 48 which have announced only a moratorium against it and 7 which recognises it only in special criminal proceedings. Actions need to be taken in the sector of encouraging nations to abolishing or deterring them from reinstating it by- addressing the issue in bilateral meetings, undertaking demarches in specific areas and debating on it in multilateral platforms. Measures need to be taken into shaping the framework for its prohibition and strengthening any institution that works against the death penalty. Cooperation with other like-minded states is also essential in order to empower key actors in the abolishment movement. Hence, Switzerland seeks support and cooperation from the member and the non-member states of this council.