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Switzerland shows scepticism over ICC deal

Switzerland has expressed his scepticism over the special deal for American peacekeepers

Switzerland has given a lukewarm reception to a United Nations deal, which exempts United States peacekeepers for one year from prosecution by a new war crime court.

The compromise, which came after roughly three weeks of negotiations, resolves a fierce dispute pitting the United States against all 15 countries of the European Union (EU) and other countries that support the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Switzerland has joined other EU countries and expressed scepticism over the deal that was struck by the UN Security Council on Friday.

“The resolutions goes against the status of the 1998 Roman Treaty,” said a spokeswoman for the foreign ministry, Muriel Berset-Cohen. “Switzerland is calling for the integrity of the Rome statute,” she added.

Before the compromise was reached, the Bush administration threatened to veto UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia.

Berset-Cohen emphasised that, despite the unpopular compromise, Switzerland was pleased the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia could continue. “Switzerland will try to make sure that the ICC will be universal in the near future,” she said.

EU response

The response of EU countries differs, with Britain and France voicing support for the deal and Belgium and Germany being less enthusiastic.

The Belgian foreign minister, Louis Michel, said the Security Council had damaged the credibility of international law by exempting American troops from the court.

“I’m of course not very happy because it is a new blow to the credibility of international law and to the deterrent effect of the ICC,” Michel told the media.

The German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, also voiced reservations about the compromise and said the German government would try to persuade the US to change its stance over the long-term.

“The federal government has stressed that from its point of view an acceptable solution must be found that damages neither the Security Council nor the ICC,” he said in a statement.

Trying individuals

The ICC was established to try individuals for genocide, war crimes and systematic human rights abuses.

The 1998 Rome Treaty setting up the court goes into force on July 1. Judges are to be elected in January 2003 and the court is expected to open its doors for operation in February 2003 in The Hague in The Netherlands.

The resolution needs a 12-month-grace-period before investigating or prosecuting UN peacekeepers from countries that do not support the court “if a case arises” and “unless the security council decides otherwise”.

swissinfo with agencies

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