Voices For American
After nearly two years of discussing and deliberating on the document proposed by their Parliament, Swiss voters approved their new constitution 18 April 1999.
The constitution's bill of rights, found in the three chapters of Title 2, is the world's most up-to-date constitutional statement of human rights.
The Preamble and Title 1, "General Provisions", are included here so that the reader may judge the imporatnce of human rights from the Swiss viewpoint, as well as their balance of human rights and the needs of national safety.
Note that the Swiss bill of rights balances the ultimate rights of individuals with the ultimate needs of the nation's safety. The balancing statements, giving the national and state authorities some latitude in limiting human rights under extreme circumstances, do not have the same portent in Switzerland that they would have in other nations. The Swiss have national level initiative and referendum, allowing the citizens to be the sovereign, superior opposition to their governments whenever necessary. The resulting political dynamic is wholly different from, and much more protective of individual and minority rights, than the political dynamic extant in any other nation.
The people-first dynamic of Swiss governance, guaranteed by citizen law going directly into the constitution while Parliamentiary law goes only into the legally inferior statutes, has been shaping Swiss national policy for over one hundred years. Both sides, representative government and civic society, are now very practiced and very competent in that governance. The two sides have developed a unique partnership that, although never perfect, is always the starting place for the development of basic policy.
The Swiss nation is one of the planet's few enjoying both financial and social success, a tandem of successes to which the US cannot even come close.
The entire Swiss Constitution may be viewed, in English language and PDF format, on the Washington, DC, Swiss Embassy web site at http://www.eda.admin.ch/washington_emb/e/home/legaff/swilaw.html. The following excerpt is quoted verbatim from that text.
For US citizens still struggling with the political and technological distortions, and even losses, of rights constitutionally guaranteed in the 1780s, the 1999 Swiss Bill Of Rights offers many pleasant surprises.
Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation
April 18, 1999 -- as revised March 12, 2000
In the name of God Almighty!
We, the Swiss People and Cantons, whereas, we are mindful of our responsibility towards creation; resolve to renew our alliance to strengthen liberty and democracy, independence and peace in solidarity and openness towards the world; are determined to live our diversity in unity respecting one another; are conscious of our common achievements and our responsibility towards future generations; and know that only those remain free who use their freedom, and that the strength of a people is measured by the welfare of the weakest of its members; now, therefore, we adopt the following Constitution:
Title 1 -- General Provisions
Art. 1 -- Swiss Confederation
The Swiss People and the Cantons of Zurich, Berne, Lucerne, Uri, Schwyz, Obwald and Nid-wald, Glarus, Zug, Fribourg, Solothurn, Basel-City and Basel-Land, Schaffhausen, Appenzell Outer Rhodes and Appenzell Inner Rhodes, St. Gall, Grisons, Aargau, Thurgau, Ticino, Vaud, Valais, Neuchâtel, Geneva, and Jura form the Swiss Confederation.
Art. 2 -- Purpose
1. The Swiss Confederation shall protect the liberty and the rights of the people, and shall ensure the independence and security of the country.
2. It shall promote the common welfare, the sustainable development, the inner cohesion, and the cultural diversity of the country.
3. It shall ensure equal opportunities for all citizens to the extent possible.
4. It shall strive to secure the long-term preservation of natural resources, and to promote a just and peaceful international order.
Art. 3 -- Cantons
The Cantons are sovereign insofar as their sovereignty is not limited by the Federal Constitution; they shall exercise all rights which are not transferred to the Confederation.
Art. 4 -- National Languages
The national languages are German, French, Italian, and Romansh.
Art. 5 -- Rule of Law
1. The state's activities shall be based on and limited by the Rule of Law.
2. State activity must be in the public interest and proportional to the goals pursued.
3. State organs and private persons must act in good faith.
4. The Confederation and the Cantons shall respect international law.
Art. 6 -- Individual and Social Responsibility
All persons are responsible for themselves, and shall make use of their abilities to contribute to achieving the goals of state and society.
Title 2 -- Fundamental Rights, Civil Rights and Social Goals
Chapter 1 -- Fundamental Rights
Art. 7 -- Human Dignity
Human dignity shall be respected and protected.
Art. 8 -- Equality before the Law
1. All human beings are equal before the law.
2. Nobody shall suffer discrimination, particularly on grounds of origin, race, sex, age, language, social position, lifestyle, religious, philosophical or political convictions, or because of a corporal or mental disability.
3 Men and women have equal rights. Legislation shall ensure equality in law and in fact, particularly in family, education, and work. Men and women shall have the right to equal pay for work of equal value.
4. Legislation shall provide for measures to eliminate disadvantages affecting disabled people.
Art. 9 -- Protection against Arbitrariness and Principle of Good Faith
Every person has the right to be treated by the state organs without arbitrariness and in good faith.
Art. 10 -- Right to Live and Personal Freedom
1. Every person has the right to live. The death penalty is prohibited.
2. Every person has the right to personal liberty, particularly to corporal and mental integrity, and to freedom of movement.
3. Torture and any other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment are prohibited.
Art. 11 -- Protection of Children and Young People
1. Children and young people have the right to special protection of their integrity and to encouragement of their development.
2. They may exercise their rights themselves to the extent of their capacity to discern.
Art. 12 -- Right to Aid in Distress
Persons in distress and incapable of looking after themselves have the right to be helped and assisted, and to receive the means that are indispensable for leading a life in human dignity.
Art. 13 -- Right to Privacy
1. All persons have the right to receive respect for their private and family life, home, and secrecy of the mails and telecommunications.
2. All persons have the right to be protected against the abuse of personal data.
Art. 14 -- Right to Marriage and Family
The right to marry and to have a family is guaranteed.
Art. 15 -- Freedom of Religion and Philosophy
1. The freedom of religion and philosophy is guaranteed.
2. All persons have the right to choose their religion or philosophical convictions freely, and to profess them alone or in community with others.
3. All persons have the right to join or to belong to a religious community, and to follow religious teachings.
4. No person shall be forced to join or belong to a religious community, to participate in a religious act, or to follow religious teachings.
Art. 16 -- Freedom of Opinion and Information
1. The freedom of opinion and information is guaranteed.
2. All persons have the right to form, express, and disseminate their opinions freely.
3. All persons have the right to receive information freely, to gather it from generally accessible sources, and to disseminate it.
Art. 17 -- Freedom of the Media
1. The freedom of the press, radio and television, and of other forms of public telecasting of productions and information is guaranteed.
2. Censorship is prohibited.
3. Editorial secrecy is guaranteed.
Art. 18 -- Freedom of Language
The freedom of language is guaranteed.
Art. 19 -- Right to Primary Education
The right to sufficient and free primary education is guaranteed.
Art. 20 -- Freedom of Science
The freedom of scientific research and teaching is guaranteed.
Art. 21 -- Freedom of Art
The freedom of art is guaranteed.
Art. 22 -- Freedom of Assembly
1. The freedom of assembly is guaranteed.
2. Every person has the right to organize assemblies, to participate in them or to stay away from them.
Art. 23 -- Freedom of Association
1. The freedom of association is guaranteed.
2. Every person has the right to form associations, to join or to belong to them, and to participate in their activities.
3. No person shall be forced to join or to belong to an association.
Art. 24 -- Freedom of Domicile
1. Swiss citizens have the right to establish their domicile anywhere within the country.
2. They have the right to leave or to return to Switzerland.
Art. 25 -- Protection against expulsion, extradition, and removal by force
1. Swiss citizens may not be expelled from the country; they may be extradited to a foreign authority only with their consent.
2. Refugees may not be removed by force or extradited to a state in which they are persecuted.
3. No person shall be removed by force to a state where he or she is threatened by torture, or another means of cruel and inhuman treatment or punishment.
Art. 26 -- Right to property
1. The right to property is guaranteed.
2. Expropriation and restrictions of ownership equivalent to expropriation shall be fully compensated.
Art. 27 -- Economic Freedom
1. Economic freedom is guaranteed.
2. It contains particularly the freedom to choose one's profession, and to enjoy free access to and free exercise of private economic activity.
Art. 28 -- Freedom to Unionize
1. Workers, employers, and their organizations have the right to unionize for the defense of their interests, to form unions and to join them or to keep out of them.
2. Conflicts shall be resolved to the extent possible through negotiation and mediation.
3. Strike and lockout are permitted when they relate to labor relations, and when they are not contrary to obligations to keep labor peace or to resort to conciliation.
4. Legislation may prohibit certain categories of persons from striking.
Art. 29 -- General Procedural Guarantees
1. Every person has the right in legal or administrative proceedings to have the case treated equally and fairly, and judged within a reasonable time.
2. The parties have the right to be heard.
3. Every person lacking the necessary means has the right to free legal assistance, unless the case appears to be without any chance of success. The person has moreover the right to free legal representation, to the extent that this is necessary to protect the person's rights.
Art. 29a -- Guarantee of Legal Proceedings
Every person has the right to have legal disputes judged by a judicial authority. The Confederation and the Cantons may in exceptional cases exclude judicial proceedings.
Art. 30 -- Judicial Proceedings
1. Every person whose case must be judged in judicial proceedings has the right to have this done by a court that is established by law, has jurisdiction, and is independent and impartial. Exceptional tribunals are prohibited.
2. A person against whom a civil action is brought has the right to have the case heard before the court at the person's domicile. Legislation may provide for another jurisdiction.
3. The court hearing shall be public, and the judgment shall be publicly proclaimed. Legislation may provide for exceptions.
Art. 31 -- Habeas Corpus
1. No person may be deprived of liberty except in the cases and in the forms provided by statute.
2. All persons deprived of their liberty have the right to be informed immediately, and in a language that they understand, of the reasons for their detention, and of their rights. They must have the opportunity to assert their rights. In particular, they have the right to have their close relatives informed.
3. Every person taken into preventive detention has the right to be brought before a judge without delay; the judge shall decide whether the person shall remain in detention or shall be released. Every person in preventive detention has the right to be judged within a reasonable time.
4. All persons who are deprived of their liberty without a trial have the right to seize a court at any time. The court shall decide as soon as possible whether the detention is legal.
Art. 32 -- Criminal procedure
1. Every person shall be presumed innocent until the person is subject to a condemnation having force of law.
2. Every accused person has the right to be informed as soon as possible and in full detail of the accusations. The person must have the opportunity to exercise its means of defense.
3. Every condemned person has the right to have the judgment reviewed by a higher court. The cases where the Federal Supreme Court sits as a court of sole instance are reserved.
Art. 33 -- Right of Petition
1. Every person has the right to address petitions to authorities without suffering prejudice.
2. The authorities must take cognizance of petitions.
Art. 34 -- Political Rights
1. The political rights are guaranteed.
2. The guarantee of political rights protects the free formation of opinion by the citizens and the unaltered expression of their will.
Art. 35 -- Realization of Fundamental Rights
1. The fundamental rights shall be realized in the entire legal system.
2. Whoever exercises a function of the state must respect the fundamental rights and contribute to their realization.
3. The authorities shall ensure that the fundamental rights also be respected in relations among private parties whenever the analogy is applicable.
Art. 36 -- Limitations of Fundamental Rights
1. Any limitation of a fundamental right requires a legal basis. Grave limitations must be expressly foreseen by statute. Cases of clear and present danger are reserved.
2. Any limitation of a fundamental right must be justified by public interest, or serve for the protection of fundamental rights of other persons.
3. Limitations of fundamental rights must be proportionate to the goals pursued.
4. The essence of fundamental rights is inviolable.
Chapter 2 -- Citizenship and Political Rights
Art. 37 -- Citizenships
1. Every person who has the citizenship of a Municipality and of the Canton, to which it belongs has Swiss citizenship.
2. No person shall enjoy a privilege or suffer prejudice because of his or her citizenship. Exceptions are possible to regulate political rights in bourgeoisies and corporations, and provide for participation in their assets, unless cantonal legislation excludes this.
Art. 38 -- Acquisition and Loss of Citizenship
1. The Confederation shall regulate the acquisition and the loss of citizenship through descent, marriage and adoption. Moreover, it shall regulate the loss of Swiss citizenship on other grounds, and the reinstatement of citizenship.
2. It shall set minimum requirements for the naturalization of foreigners by the Cantons, and grant naturalization permits.
3. It shall facilitate the naturalization of stateless children.
Art. 39 -- Exercise of Political Rights
1. The Confederation shall regulate the exercise of political rights in federal matters; the Cantons shall regulate the exercise of these rights in cantonal and municipal matters.
2. The political rights shall be exercised at the domicile. The Confederation and the Cantons may foresee exceptions.
3. No person shall exercise political rights in more than one Canton.
4. The Cantons may provide that new domiciliaries may exercise political rights in cantonal and municipal matters, only once a waiting period of no more than three months has been observed.
Art. 40 -- Swiss citizens domiciled abroad
1. The Confederation shall encourage links amongst Swiss citizens domiciled abroad, and their links with Switzerland. It may support organizations which pursue this goal.
2. It shall legislate on the rights and obligations of Swiss citizens domiciled abroad, in particular on the exercise of the political rights on the federal level, the duty to render military or alternative service, assistance to needy persons, and social security.
Chapter 3 -- Social Goals
1. The Confederation and the Cantons shall strive to ensure that, in addition to personal responsibility and private initiative,
a. every person shall benefit from social security;
b. every person shall benefit from necessary health care;
c. the family as a community of adults and children shall be protected and encouraged;
d. every person capable of working shall sustain himself or herself through working under fair and adequate conditions;
e. every person looking for housing shall find, for himself or herself and his or her family, appropriate housing at reasonable conditions;
f. children and young people and people of working age shall benefit from initial and continuing education according to their abilities;
g. children and young people shall be encouraged in their development to become independent and socially responsible persons, and they shall be supported in their social, cultural, and political integration.
2. The Confederation and the Cantons shall strive to ensure that every person shall be insured against the economic consequences of old age, disability, illness, accidents, unemployment, maternity, orphanhood, and widowhood.
3. They shall strive to realize the social goals within the framework of their constitutional powers and with the means available to them.
4. No direct subjective right to prestations by the state may be derived from the social goals.
End -- Title 2
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Stephen Neitzke, DDL Founder
Dura lex, sed lex.
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Page last revised Fri 06 Jul 2007