European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)



Internal Organisation


Switzerland acceded to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination on 29 December 1994. States which sign this Convention undertake to make racist acts punishable, to eliminate racist propaganda, to pursue a policy with a view to eliminating racial discrimination, to guarantee equal treatment for all individuals irrespective of their nationality, ethnic origin, religion or skin colour, and to combat prejudice at school or in other fields of education. The Federal Council set up the CFR, a specialised national institution, in order to implement this Convention.

According to Article 261bis of the Penal Code, any public racial discrimination is punishable. The cantonal judicial authorities are responsible for applying this article.


According to the CFR’s terms of reference, in pursuance of the decision of the Federal Council of 23 August 1995, the CFR’s objectives are to promote better understanding between persons of different races, colours, ethnic or national origins or religions, to combat any form of direct or indirect racial discrimination and to pay special attention to prevention as a way of making its work effective.

Internal Organisation 

The CFR is composed of 19 experts appointed by the Swiss government. Some of these experts are representatives of religious communities, minorities, non-governmental anti-racism organisations, both sides of industry (employers' and employees' organisations) and the Conferences of Cantonal Directors of Education and the Police, while others are independent experts. The Secretariat provides support for the Commission and deals with routine matters. It is attached to the General Secretariat of the Federal Department of the Interior.


The main activities of the CFR are as follows:

  • raising public awareness;
  • transmitting recommendations and viewpoints to the authorities;
  • offering support and advice to the persons concerned;
  • co-operating with all the parties involved;
  • observing, documenting, analysing.

Awareness raising

The CFR raises awareness and carries out public relations work by running campaigns and issuing public statements, publications and press articles. The Commission draws up its own reports on certain specific areas.

Recommendations to the authorities

The CFR advises the Federal Council and departments through consultation procedures, recommendations, expert reports and the viewpoints it puts forward. It also provides support to cantonal and municipal authorities, mainly by holding annual meetings on subjects of common interest, such as the situation of Swiss travellers and prejudice against asylum-seekers of African origin.


The President and the Secretariat of the CFR offer advice to anyone who feels that he or she has suffered racial discrimination. They carry out research and act as mediators in the event of disputes. The Commission does not, however, have an official role as ombudsman.

Co-operation with all the parties involved

The CFR plays a central role in promoting collaboration and co-operation between federal authorities, non-governmental organisations and international bodies. The Commission issues invitations to the parties involved and expresses its views on topical themes, sometimes at the request of NGOs. In the context of the federal authorities, it coordinates its own activities with those of the Federal Commission for Refugees and the Federal Commission for Foreigners.

Observation, documentation, analysis

The CFR encourages research into important subjects connected with its activities such as antisemitism in Switzerland, islamophobia and the exclusion of certain groups of immigrants on the basis of their temporary resident status.

The CFR Secretariat is responsible for the Commission's documentation (newspaper articles, scientific publications and judgments connected with the application of the anti-racist criminal law, Art 261bis of the Penal Code). Interested parties may consult this documentation.

Activities at international level

The CFR monitors international developments in the field of protection against racism and respect for human rights and works for the implementation of the relevant international conventions. It is part of the Swiss delegation to the Committee which monitors the UN’s International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It is a national specialised body recognised by the United Nations and the Council of Europe.


“Tangram”, the CFR’s free newsletter, appears twice a year, each issue focusing on one special topic. The CFR recently launched a website, which receives over 80 000 visits a year from all parts of the world.

Reports have been published on the following themes: antisemitism in Switzerland, segregation in schools, the prohibition of discrimination and family reunification, cantonal procedures for naturalisation and assistance for victims of racism.


Federal Commission against Racism
Commission fédérale contre le racisme (CFR)
Tel.: +41 31-324 12 93
Fax: +41 31-322 44 37
Web site: