Dealing with the past

Black and white photographs of torture victims in the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh in Cambodia.
Photographs of torture victims in the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. © Shutterstock/WDEON

In the context of promoting peace and respect for human rights, Switzerland is active in the field of dealing with the past. Through its activities, it aims to facilitate social reconciliation after serious violations of human rights or infringements of international humanitarian law. It therefore supports initiatives within a bilateral and a multilateral context.

Switzerland’s activities in the field of dealing with the past are based on four key principles: the right to know, the right to justice, the right to reparation and the guarantee of non-recurrence. These principles recognise the rights of victims and define the obligations of states. They are based on the work that Louis Joinet developed for the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1999.

Bilateral and multilateral activities

Bilaterally, Switzerland supports initiatives in the field of dealing with the past on the Philippines, the Marshall Islands, in Sri Lanka, Colombia, Kosovo, in the Caucasus, in Burundi, Mali, Chad, Zimbabwe, North Africa and the Middle East. The FDFA advises and supports governments and accompanies in political processes. These include truth and reconciliation commissions and programmes concerned with the rehabilitation and compensation of victims, as well as the reform of authorities and institutions or the construction of memorials.

Multilaterally, Switzerland launches initiatives and initiates resolutions,  such as the mandate of a UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantee of non-recurrence. This office is the result of a Swiss initiative from 2011. Switzerland is also active in the initial and continued training of experts, and assists in the development of new ideas and concepts for dealing with the past – for example, in the following fields:

  • justice and peace,

  • gender and reparation,

  • disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and transitional justice,

  • development and transitional justice,

  • archiving and human rights,

  • prevention of genocide and mass violence,

  • relationship between dealing with the past and prevention.