This article throws light upon twenty fundamental rights of the Swiss citizens. Some of the fundamental rights are: 1. Right to Human Dignity 2. Right to Equality and Protective Discrimination 3. Protection Against Arbitrariness and Preservation of Good Faith 4. Right to Life and Personal Freedom 5. Right to Petition and Others.
Fundamental Right # 1. Right to Human Dignity:
The Swiss bill of rights gives first priority to human dignity.
Article 7 reads:
“Human dignity ought to be respected and protected.” The right naturally involves the right to life because human dignity can be protected and promoted only when right to life is fully respected.
Fundamental Right # 2. Right to Equality and Protective Discrimination:
Under its Article 8 the Constitution grants the right to equality to all the people.
Article 8(1) says:
“Every one is equal before the law.” It also states that there is to be no discrimination on the basis of origin, race, sex, age, language, social position, way of life, and religious, philosophical or political convictions.
Further, all men and women enjoy equal rights without any discrimination. There is to be legal equality as well as equality in family life, during education and at the work place. However, the right to equality accepts the principle of protective discrimination and the state can take steps for the elimination of disadvantages of the disabled people.
Fundamental Right # 3. Protection Against Arbitrariness and Preservation of Good Faith:
Further, Article 9 of the Constitution lays down, “Every person has the right to be treated equally by the state institutions without arbitrariness and in good faith.”
Fundamental Right # 4. Right to Life and Personal Freedom:
In its Article 10 the Constitution grants right to life and personal freedom. It says that every person has the right to life. Death penalty stands prohibited. No one can be subjected to torture and any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Fundamental Right # 5. Special Protection of Children and Adolescents and Right to Aid in Distress:
Children and adolescents have been granted the rights to special protection for their personal integrity. They have the right to work for their development. Each one exercises these rights according to his capacity. Each one in distress has the right to get aid.
Fundamental Right # 6. Protection of Privacy, Right to Marriage and Family:
The Constitution guarantees to every citizen the right to marriage and family (Article 14). Further Article 13(1) declares that every man and woman has the right to get respect for his/her private life, family life, home and secrecy of correspondence- mail as well as telecommunication. Every person has the right to be protected against abuse of personal data. [Article 13(2)]
Fundamental Right # 7. Right to Freedom of Religion and Conscience:
The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and conscience to all. Every person can freely choose his religion and profess his faiths, individually as well as collectively with others. He has the right to join or belong to a religious community as well as to receive religious education. No one can be forced to accept or join any religion or religious activity or religious education against his will.
Fundamental Right # 8. Right to Freedom of Opinion, Information and Media (Press):
Article 16 of the Swiss Constitution provides guarantee to the right to freedom of opinion and information. Each person enjoys the right to freely express his opinions, to receive information and to share opinions, views and information with others. The freedom of press, radio, television and other means of mass communication stands guaranteed under Article 17. It also prohibits censorship and guarantees editorial secrecy.
Swiss Citizens: Fundamental Right # 9. Rights to Freedom of Language, Primary Education, Science and Art:
Article 18 guarantees freedom of language. The citizens have the right to learn and use any language. However, four languages stand recognized as the national language-German, French, Italian and Romansh. The citizens have been guaranteed the right to sufficient and free primary education (Article 19). The Constitution also guarantees the freedom to pursue Science or Art Scientific research and teaching.
Fundamental Right # 10. Right to Freedom of Assembly and Association:
Like every true democratic constitution, the Swiss Constitution also guarantees to all its citizens the freedom of assembly and the freedom to form associations. Every person has the right to organize assemblies, to participate in these or to abstain from these. He has the right to form or join any association as well as to participate in its activities.
Fundamental Right # 11. Freedom of Domicile and Protection against Expulsion, Extradition and Removal by Force:
Article 24 and 25 of the Constitution, respectively, grant to the Swiss citizens the freedom of residence in any part of Switzerland. They enjoy the freedom to move their residences/domiciles at any time. They have also the freedom to leave or re-enter Switzerland.
No citizen can be expelled from the country and extradition of a person to a foreign country can only take place with his consent. Protection of refugees is granted and their persecution stands prohibited. No person can be forcibly removed to a state where he may feel a threat to his life or torture or cruelty.
Fundamental Right # 12. Rights to Property and Economic Freedom:
Under its Article 26, the Swiss Constitution guarantees the right to property to its entire citizen. Each citizen has the right to get compensation for any expropriation and restrictions that may be placed by the government or others. Each citizen enjoys economic freedom and he has the right to choose his profession, or to pursue any business or trade. He has the freedom to enjoy the fruits of his private economic activity (Article 27).
Fundamental Right # 13. Freedom to Form Unions and Right to Strike:
The right of the workers, employers and organisations to form their unions for protecting their interest stands recognized under Article 28 of the Constitution. However, no one can be forced to compulsorily join any association or union. Negotiation and mediations are to be used as means of conflict- resolution.
The right to strike and lockout are permitted. This right can be exercised in labour relations. Further, strikes and lockouts are not to violate or be contrary to the obligation to keep labour peace or to resort to conciliation. However, the state can prohibit certain categories of persons from resorting to strike.
Fundamental Right # 14. Certain Guarantees in Respect of Administrative and Judicial Proceedings:
The Swiss Constitution gives a guarantee of fair and speedy trial. Fair administrative and legal hearing is a right of every citizen. Any person who cannot afford the services of a lawyer has the right to get free legal assistance for the protection of his rights.
A person can be awarded punishment only after fair trial by a judicial authority i.e., by a court that stands established by law, which has jurisdiction over the case and which is an independent and impartial body. Again a punishment can be awarded only in accordance with law.
Normally, a person facing a civil suit has to be tried by the judicial authority working in the place of his domicile. Further all hearings by the courts have to be public, fair and impartial.
Fundamental Right # 15. Rights of the Accused and Detained Persons:
Article 31 of the Constitution provides for Habeas Corpus and records that no person can be deprived of liberty except in cases and in the form provided by laws. Each person who is arrested or detained has to be informed about the grounds of his arrest/detention.
The detaining authority has to give such an information to every accused or detained person. Such a person has the right to assert his rights. His relations have to be informed about his case.
Every person taken into preventive detention has to be produced before a judge without delay. The judge then decides as to whether he is to remain in detention or is to be released. Every detained person has to be tried within a reasonable time.
Any person who is detained without a trial has the right to approach a court. The court then decides, as soon as possible, as to whether his detention was legal or not.
Fundamental Right # 16. Right to Fair and Speedy Trial in a Court of Law:
Each accused has a right to fair trial and speedy justice. He has the right to be informed, as soon as possible and in full detail about the charges against him. Further, he has to be provided with means of his legal defence. Every person condemned as a criminal has the right to get the judgment against him reviewed by a higher court. However, when a case is decided by the Federal Court (Bundesgercht), its decisions are final.
Fundamental Right # 17. Right to Petition:
The Constitution grants to every citizen the right to address petitions to authorities and for this no action can be taken against him. The authorities are duty bound to take notice of the petitions made by citizens as well as to take appropriate action in case it is deemed fit and essential.
Fundamental Right # 18. Grant and Guarantee of Political Rights:
Article 34 of the Swiss Constitution guarantees political rights to all citizens. Each citizen can freely express his political views on various issues, problems and policies.
Further, the Constitution lays down provisions regarding the exercise of political rights. Article 39 gives to the Swiss Federation the power to regulate the exercise of political rights in federal matters. In respect of cantonal and municipal matters, this power is to be exercised by each Canton in its own territory.
Each person exercises his political rights at the place of his domicile. No person can exercise his political rights in more than one Canton. Any Swiss citizen who starts residing in another Canton becomes eligible to exercise his political rights there only after a period of 3 months counted from the date of his domicile in the Canton.
Fundamental Right # 19. Right regarding Citizenship and Acquisition and Loss of Citizenship:
Every person who has citizenship of a municipality and of a Canton enjoys Swiss citizenship. In other words, all citizens of all Cantons enjoy equal citizenship of Switzerland. No discrimination is made in respect of the grant of citizenship and rights, to all the Swiss people.
The Federation enjoys the power to regulate the issues pertaining to acquisition, loss and reinstatement of citizenship through descent, marriage and adoption. Naturalization of foreigners (aliens who aspire for Swiss Citizenship) is practiced by Cantons. While doing so the Canton are expected to prescribe only minimum possible conditions. The naturalization of stateless children has to be practiced in an easy manner.
Fundamental Right # 20. Rights of Swiss Citizens Residing Abroad:
Article 40 of the Swiss Constitution, which happens to the last Article of Chapter 2 of Title 2, stands devoted to the rights of Swiss citizens living abroad. It requires the Swiss Federation to encourage links with such citizens, particularly their links with Switzerland. It also calls upon the Federation to support such organisations as may pursue this goal.
The Federation also enjoys the power to legislate on the rights and obligations of Swiss Citizens domiciled abroad, particularly their political rights at the federal level, their duty to render military service, cases of assistance to needy persons and the extent and content of social security to be given to them.