International criminal tribunals prosecute individuals accused of committing international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. Switzerland strongly supports the International Criminal Court, which plays a vital role in combating impunity and in promoting and ensuring compliance with international humanitarian law and respect for human rights.
International Criminal Court
The establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) was a remarkable historical achievement. The Rome Statute, which came into force on 1 July 2002, sets out the Court's jurisdiction, structure and functions. The ICC is a permanent institution available to the international community, exercising jurisdiction over individuals for the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole that shock the conscience of humanity:
- crimes against humanity
- war crimes
- crimes of aggression
The ICC only acts when the competent national authorities are unable or unwilling to prosecute these crimes. Nobody is immune from prosecution, including heads of state or government.
Switzerland believes that dealing with the past of violent conflicts is essential to achieving reconciliation and lasting peace, which includes prosecuting crimes to bring justice for victims. Accordingly, Switzerland was involved in establishing the ICC in 1998 and ratified the Rome Statute in 2001. Since then, Switzerland has been calling for more countries to ratify the Rome Statute and thus ensure greater protection for victims. Switzerland played a major part in negotiating an amendment to the Rome Statute to criminalise acts of aggression. It also assists the ICC in discharging its duties efficiently and effectively.
Through these activities, Switzerland is actively involved in shaping the ICC, strengthening international criminal justice and supporting efforts to end impunity.
Other international criminal tribunals
Switzerland also supports ad hoc criminal tribunals created for the purpose of trying crimes committed in specific regions. Since the 1990s, the international community has established a number of ad hoc tribunals:
- the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (1993)
- the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (1994)
- the Special Court for Sierra Leone (2000)
- the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) for the prosecution of the crimes committed during the period of the Democratic Kampuchea (2004)
- the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (2007)
- the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (2010)
- the Extraordinary African Chambers created to prosecute crimes in Chad between 1982 and 1990 (2012)
Swiss cooperation with the international criminal tribunals
International criminal tribunals rely on cooperation with states, as they have no police forces of their own. Switzerland has enacted legislation that governs and facilitates cooperation with the International Criminal Court and other international criminal tribunals.
National prosecution of the most serious international crimes
In certain circumstances, the perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide can be prosecuted in Switzerland under the Swiss Criminal Code, even where the crime was committed abroad and the perpetrator and victim are not Swiss nationals (universal jurisdiction). The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland or, in exceptional circumstances, the military justice authority has the power to prosecute such offences.