Notification of legal proceedings intended for an international organisation or foreign State

The following text is for information purposes only. The method by which the addressee is to be notified is determined by their status and immunity.

Considering the many different statutes, the Swiss Mission remains available to the requesting authorities to determine how a judicial act should be notified and the procedure to follow, should the indications below not be sufficient.

Notification to an international organisation (1)

The status of an international organisation with a headquarters agreement (2) requires that the judicial act be notified through the diplomatic channel, i.e. by the Swiss mission. A pension fund or health insurance of an international organisation has the same status as the organisation itself; notification must therefore also be made through the diplomatic channel. Legal proceedings that have been initiated in Switzerland may only continue if the organisation accepts to waive its immunity.

Quasi-governmental international organisations with a tax agreement (3) and international bodies with an agreement on privileges and immunities (4) with the Swiss Federal Council do not enjoy any immunity but do benefit from certain privileges. These organisations and their staff members are subject to ordinary law. The judicial act shall be notified directly to them.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) do not enjoy any privileges or immunities and remain subject to ordinary law. The judicial act shall be notified directly to them.

Notification to a foreign State 

Under international law, an embassy (5), a consular post (6) and permanent mission (7) has no legal personality; they are only organs of the foreign State they represent. It follows that any dispute (eg. labour, rental lease or other) must be directed against the State itself, not the embassy, consular post or permanent mission.

The principle of immunity of foreign State is not an absolute rule for general application (8). A distinction must be made whether a State is acting by virtue of its sovereignty (iure imperii) or according to private law (iure gestionis). The principle of immunity from jurisdiction is applicable only in the first case. In the second case, the State may be brought before a Swiss court and, under certain conditions, be subject to enforcement measures.

The judicial act must be notified to the foreign State through the diplomatic channel (public prosecutor's office, Federal Office of Justice - FOJ, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs - FDFA, competent Swiss embassy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs the concerned State). The Swiss mission, informed by the FDFA, sends a copy of the notification to the concerned permanent mission for information purposes. 

If the foreign State has elected residence with a lawyer, the legal documents shall be notified to the latter. If the foreign State has elected residence with its permanent mission, the legal documents must be notified through the diplomatic channel, i.e. by the Swiss Mission. The decision to elect domicile belongs to the foreign State, which communicates it in writing through its permanent mission (to the Swiss Mission or the requesting authority). In the absence of an elected domicile, the notification must necessarily be made through the diplomatic channel.

Upon request of the applicant authority, the Swiss mission can, prior to the first notification, contact the permanent mission in question in order to inform them that a claim has been lodged and ask whether their authorities wish to elect residence with a lawyer or their representation. If this is not the case, the legal documents will have to be notified through the diplomatic channel.

Division of responsibilities between the Swiss mission and FDFA Protocol

The Swiss mission is responsible for permanent missions based in Geneva and international organisations based in Switzerland. Please contact the Swiss mission's Office of Privileges &  Immunities (P.O. Box 194, 1211 Geneva 20, tel. 058 482 24 24,

The FDFA Protocol is responsible for embassies based in Bern and Geneva and consular posts based in Switzerland. Please contact FDFA Protocol's Privileges and Immunities Section (Bundesgasse 32, 3003 Bern, tel. 058 464 85 26,


Specialist Contact

Permanent Mission of Switzerland to UNOG
Office of Privileges & immunities
Rue de Varembé 9-11
P.O. Box 194
CH-1211 Geneva 20
Tel. +41 (0)58 482 24 24
Fax +41 (0)58 482 24 37