Switzerland finally adopts the appropriate tools to prosecute war criminals present on its territory

Landmark victory in the fight against the impunity of international criminals! The Swiss Confederation finally decided to provide its prosecuting authorities with the necessary tools to investigate and prosecute persons suspected of, or responsible for genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity present on its territory. The public campaign launched by the Swiss Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CSCPI) has thus achieved its goal. From now on the Federal Prosecutor’s Office has at its disposal a  «Competence Center«, staffed with permanent experts, that will be able to track internationalcriminals more effectively.

War criminals will have to think twice before entering Swiss territory. The depository State of the Geneva Conventions has finally equipped its authorities with the practical means to prosecute them. Less than two years after the entry into force of the new provisions implementing the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court into Swiss law, a specialised unit has been set up within the Federal Prosecutor’s Office. The unit includes a director and four specialists working full-time on international crimes procedures. The current composition might change in the future, depending on the volume of the pending cases. Before the present adjustment, prosecutors working on these cases had to do so on top of their usual workload.

The Swiss Coalition for the International Criminal Court praises Switzerland for this remarkable progress and already looks ahead.

The campaign led by the CSCPI for the creation of a «War Crimes Unit» has finally achieved its goal. The NGOs’ demands, taken up by several MPs and supported by 10’000 petitioners in March 2012, have been met. On the eleventh anniversary of the Swiss ratification of the Rome Statute (12 October 2001), the Swiss Coalition welcomes these latest developments. «In this respect, Swiss authorities deserve our congratulations» says Richard Greiner, coordinator for the CSCPI. He further invites «the Federal Prosecutor’s Office to play a pro-active role in the investigation and prosecution of the suspects of the most heinous crimes who are in Switzerland or intend to set foot here».

The activities of the «Competence Center crimes against humanity and war crimes» shall be closely monitored. Several members of the CSCPI already have an eye on potential suspects coming from war-torn regions of different parts of the world. Switzerland has now the necessary means and capacity to prosecute, for instance, former high-ranking officials toppled during the Arab Spring, warlords recruiting child-soldiers or former officials of the Syrian army responsible for past and current atrocities as soon as they find themselves on Swiss territory.

Such cases are not unprecedented. Switzerland already convicted a Rwandan national for his involvement in the 1994 genocide more than a decade ago. In Autumn 2011, an Algerian general and former Minister of Defence was arrested in Geneva and is currently under investigation for war crimes. Members of the CSCPI have denounced several other cases and investigations are on-going. Civil society now expects that Swiss authorities take up their responsibilities and actively track down and prosecute the persons suspected of involvement and participation in genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity.

– Richard Greiner, TRIAL, Coordinator of the CSCPI (fr & germ)
T: 078 625 25 83, E: richard.greiner@trial-ch.org
– Bénédict de Moerloose, Legal Advisor at TRIAL (fr & eng)
T: 022 321 61 10, E: benedict.demoerloose@trial-ch.org

Switzerland finally adopts the appropriate tools to prosecute war criminals present on its territory.

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