Swiss help for international tribunals to be anchored in law

The International Criminal Court in the Hague, the Netherlands. Keystone / Ed Oudenaarden

Parliament has approved a proposal to set up a legal basis for systematic Swiss cooperation with international criminal and rights tribunals.

This content was published on December 3, 2020 - 12:57

On Thursday, the Senate unanimously accepted the government’s plan to legally anchor international assistance to trials concerning violations like genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity.

Currently, Swiss law only covers requests for legal assistance from other nation-states. Exceptions to this – the Rwandan and Yugoslav tribunals, as well as the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague – were covered by two specific laws in 1995 and 2001.

Some criminal tribunals however have been spurned by Bern due to a lack of legal basis for providing assistance. This was notably the case in 2016 and the international investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

According to a parliamentary committee, the same legal gaps could also potentially block cooperation with the Geneva-based “MechanismExternal link” looking into breaches of international law in Syria.

Cooperation with international investigations into non-human rights violations, such as murder, will also be possible if they are based on United Nations resolutions which Switzerland supports, the law foresees.

As for how it operates in practice, it will not be hugely different from the legal assistance offered to other states, and it will not involve any obligation on the part of Switzerland.

The text has already been accepted by the House of Representatives.

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