2 National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights 2020-23

2.1 Pillar 1: state duty to protect

 

2.1.5 Policy coherence

Guiding Principle 10

Measure 21: Support for UN bodies in charge of promoting the UN Guiding Principles

The federal government will continue to lend political and financial support to the UN Working Group, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva. It will work with these bodies on several projects that:

– improve access to remediation mechanisms for those affected by business-related human rights abuses.

 

Measure 22: Commitments by Switzerland to the UN Guiding Principles at multilateral level

Switzerland actively contributed to the drafting of the Recommendation42 on business and human rights adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 2 March 2016. In implementing the NAP, Switzerland is implementing the Committee of Ministers Recommendation. It also supports Council of Europe efforts to improve access to remedy for those affected by human rights abuses, as well as to its online business and human rights platform.

 

2.3 Pillar 3: access to remedy

Many business enterprises have introduced mechanisms that enable their employees and/or business partners to share their concerns about possible human rights abuses and bring claims. Dealing with such claims internally, for example through mediation, often produces satisfactory outcomes for all affected parties. When a constructive solution cannot be found, the State must provide non-judicial and judicial mechanisms which give those affected by human rights abuses access to effective remedy.

 

2.3.1 Foundational principle

Guiding Principle 25

The Federal Council recognises the need to provide access to remedy for those affected by human rights abuses committed on Swiss territory and/or under Swiss jurisdiction. It believes the principal means of doing this is via the well-functioning Swiss judicial system, along with alternative, non-judicial dispute resolution mechanisms.

The Federal Council also acknowledges its responsibility to facilitate access to Swiss grievance mechanisms where business enterprises based in Switzerland are involved in human rights abuses abroad, and those affected in the host state have no appropriate access to effective remedy. In such instances, due consideration must be given to a smart mix of judicial and non-judicial mechanisms.

 

2.3.2 Operational principles: state judicial mechanisms

Guiding Principle 26

Domestic judicial mechanisms (the courts) may be used to determine matters involving business-related human rights abuses. The federal government intends to ensure the effectiveness of these mechanisms by devising measures to reduce legal, practical and other hurdles that could prevent those affected from gaining access to remedy. These measures should pay particular attention to the additional obstacles that women may face.

In this context, it is necessary to consider the extra-territorial dimension of any judicial mechanisms. The Federal Council therefore supports efforts to achieve a better understanding of the relevant frameworks in different countries, and encourages international processes. Under certain circumstances, it is possible under Swiss law for individuals who believe that their rights have been violated by Swiss companies to bring an action or appeal before Swiss courts. Whether Swiss courts have jurisdiction to hear and determine such cases and the governing law must be assessed on a case-by-case basis with reference to applicable legal provisions.

The Federal Council addressed all these issues in a report and acknowledges that the mechanisms available in Switzerland are, by international standards, sufficiently well-developed. The report also identified areas where improvements could be made. The Federal Council subsequently decided on additional measures to improve access to remedy in Switzerland for individuals who have suffered human rights abuses committed by a business enterprise based in another country.

 

Measure 31: Promoting the option of collective redress

The Federal Council intends to make selective amendments to the Civil Procedure Code (CPC) to improve its applicability. These will focus on removing obstacles to legal redress such as fees and the risks associated with legal costs, strengthening collective redress mechanisms and simplifying the coordination of procedures.

In the process of revising the CPC, the federal government drafted amendments to the provisions governing costs with a view to extending the scope of the conciliation procedure. New rules on group actions and establishing a group settlement mechanism will close a gap in the available legal protection by facilitating class actions in respect of mass and dispersed damage claims. These amendments and new articles bring the draft bill in line with Business and Human Rights Recommendations 39 and 42 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe of 2 March 2016. They also meet the expectations of the UN, as expressed in Guiding Principle 26.

Objective Indicator Responsibility
Facilitated class actions. Selected amendments to the CPC. FDJP [Federal Department of Justice and Police]