UN expert calls on Swiss to maintain funding

Melzer was elected to the post of UN rapporteur on torture in September 2016 Keystone

The Swiss government is facing calls by the United Nations special rapporteur on torture to boost its financial support for the independent mandate.

This content was published on March 15, 2017 - 16:18 and agencies/ug

Nils Melzer, a Swiss national appointed to the post last year by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights CouncilExternal link, urged the foreign ministryExternal link to help ensure the financing.

He said the government had no legal obligation to fund the post, but the decision would undermine Switzerland’s credibility in its fight against torture worldwide and Geneva’s image as “capital of human rights” if his office suffered from a lack of financing.

The foreign ministry in December announced it would stop funding the post of assistant to the rapporteur due to spending cuts decided by parliament last year.

The Swiss government contribution – CHF120,000 ($119,000) annually – formally pays towards a chair at Geneva’s Academy for International Humanitarian Law and Human RightsExternal link.

Melzer said he could try to find funding from private sponsors, but this could take several months. He said the rapporteur received up to 15 requests a day to intervene to stop cases of torture.

Job cuts

In another development, public spending cuts at the finance ministry have led to the sacking of employees at the Federal Office of Information Technology, Systems and TelecommunicationExternal link.

The office on Wednesday announced nearly 60 of its 1,100 jobs would be shed, prompting the anger of trade unions and employee associations.

They criticised the finance ministry for breaking its promise and warned the decision could set a precedent for other jobs in the federal administration.

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