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31 Jan 2020

Secretariat of the Committee for Legal Affairs

Switzerland: Legal Affairs Committee of Lower House reaffirms commitment to proposed human rights due diligence legislation

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Note: This is an unofficial summary translation by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre of the Swiss Parliament's press release, orginally available in German and French.

In the 2019 winter session, the Council of States adopted an indirect counter-proposal to the Responsible Business Initiative. The Council of States’ and the National Council’s proposals were discussed by the National Council's Committee for Legal Affairs on 31 January, which voted by 14 votes to 5 with 6 abstentions to stick to the National Council's indirect counter-proposal and revised it.

The Commission believes the National Council's draft would offer clearer guidelines and more legal certainty with regards to the issues the Responsible Business Initiative aims to address. The regulation would work with familiar Swiss legal systems, whereas the Council of States‘ proposal would have to operate with terms unknown to Swiss law, taken from EU law. The Commission points out that, according to the Council of States' proposal, the question of Swiss parent company liability for foreign subsidiaries would be governed by foreign law, resulting in legal uncertainty. According to the National Council's alternative proposal, the question of liability would be assessed solely under Swiss law and the conditions under which a company would be liable would be limited in many respects compared to existing liability under current law and would be more precise. The Commission has revised the National Council’s original proposal in several points, drawing on the proposals of the Legal Affairs Commission of the Council of States from 21 November 2019 and adapting these in specific areas.

The resolution of the differences with regards to an indirect counter-proposal will be continued in the spring session. The bill must be put to a final vote in the spring session of 2020, along with the popular initiative, for a conditional withdrawal of the initiative to still be possible. The bill still needs to be discussed twice in each Council before then.