Senior expert in international human rights law (also in relation to international humanitarian, criminal and refugee law) as a member of the International Bureau of FIACAT since July 2016 and of the Board of Directors of the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) since 2013 as well as for the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) since 2012. Former head of Swiss human rights policy at the FDFA (1980-2000), former Minister in charge of human rights at the Swiss Missions to the United Nations in New York and Geneva (2000-2012).

Whatever our colour, ethnicity, religion, beliefs or opinion, every one of us can be a defender of human rights by combatting very serious violations such as torture, enforced disappearances and the death penalty.  Each of us is an integral part of civil society and, as such, is committed, alone or collectively, at local, national, regional or international level, to the protection and promotion of human rights, whether civil, cultural, economic, political or social. This is our mission because respect for these rights is an essential contribution to peace and security in every country and every region and therefore in the world.

In June 2020, Jean-Daniel Vigny was elected member of the International Bureau of FIACAT for a second four-year term. 

Why DID the diplomat that I was, BECOME an activist IN THE International Federation of ACAT (FIACAT),

which brings together around thirty national ACATs around the world? 

I am a former diplomat, an expert in international human rights law, who spent three decades striving to ensure a permanent commitment by our Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the protection and promotion of these rights and freedoms in the framework of the foreign policy of my country. Within our Ministry, I fought against those who did not want to understand that the protection and promotion of all human rights constitute an essential contribution to peace and security in every state, region, and continent and hence in the world. I was at the frontline insisting that the Ministry intervene bilaterally in any state where human rights were seriously violated. From the beginning of the 90s, I was fortunate also to have the opportunity to lead our delegation on several occasions during the difficult bilateral dialogue with Beijing on human rights in China and Tibet. Working hand in hand with civil society, I have actively negotiated conventions, optional protocols, declarations and numerous resolutions for different bodies within the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the human dimension arm of the OSCE and UNESCO. This was particularly the case with my country's initiatives supporting the development of innovative instruments in this area, such as the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture. By constantly making its voice heard in these bodies, invoking international human rights law but without abusing it for political ends, and by helping to advance the cause of individual rights and freedoms and defending them against those seeking to weaken them, it was often virtually impossible for the community of nations to ignore Switzerland’s views.                                                                                                                           

On retirement, I spent some years as a senior human rights expert in our Ministry. Then I switched from an official human rights activist to an NGO activist after being elected in 2016 to the International Bureau of FIACAT, in Paris, on the proposal of my country’s ACAT representative. Once we are won over to the cause of human rights, we are motivated forever, because we realise that our human rights are fundamental to our everyday lives and that we must defend them, our own and those of our neighbour!  

FIACAT and the thirty or so national ACATs are NGOs which defend the inherent dignity of every human being and their right to live out their inalienable human rights, day after day. We act at the universal, regional, national and local levels. Alongside the FIACAT Secretariat, its International Bureau is first and foremost committed to promoting the right to physical and mental integrity and to life of all persons facing torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, capital punishment, extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and enforced disappearances. Our credo and our advocacy supporting the protection and promotion of these absolute rights, from which states can therefore not derogate under any circumstances, are founded on the universal and fundamental humanist values of all Christians of all denominations.

Our action is part of the global struggle led by civil society in states, at the UN, at the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and at the Council of Europe to ensure that every being human can from childhood learn their human rights - civil, cultural, economic, political or social - and be trained in them, in order to know them, to practise them and to enjoy them, to live them from day to day. They are an integral part of our being; if necessary, we must defend our rights and those of others.

As individuals exercising our individual rights day in, day out throughout our lives, we are all affected. It is in our primary interest, individually and together, to defend our rights and freedoms, and those of our brothers and sisters, without any discrimination.

We really need your personal commitment, so contribute to our action against torture and capital punishment by joining our national ACATs or by supporting them, like our FIACAT.


                                                                                                          Jean-Daniel Vigny

Former diplomat, international human rights expert, member of the International Bureau of FIACAT