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Switzerland favours positive engagement with countries accused of abusing human rights

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has unveiled several proposals for improving human rights, at the annual meeting of the United Nations Commission. However, he shied away from strongly condemning countries with poor records.

This content was published on March 21, 2000 - 17:48

Switzerland favours positive engagement with countries accused of abusing human rights. The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has unveiled several proposals for improving human rights, at the annual meeting of the United Nations Commission. However, he shied away from strongly condemning countries with poor records.

He proposed new protocols on two existing treaties, as well as a new agreement on what he called the "Fundamental Standards of Humanity", aimed at providing better protections for those at risk of abuses.

He also singled out a handful of countries for mild criticism over their human rights records. But he backed away from condemning Israel for its continuing occupation of the Golan Heights, the Palestinian territories and southern Lebanon.

"The position of Switzerland has been to ask the parties concerned not to intervene in a manner that harms the civilian population. We hope that the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon will bring an end to the violence there."

Deiss made clear that he favours positive engagement on questions of human rights, even if that means dealing with countries which have been condemned by the UN.

This was most clearly illustrated by his proposal for a draft "Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture". This would offer countries "practical assistance in preventing torture... based on confidentiality and cooperation".

Noticeably absent from Deiss's speech was any mention of the human rights situation in Switzerland, despite a critical report just released by the Council of Europe. It warned that Switzerland's naturalisation policies could result in discriminatory practices.

by Jonas Hughes

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