Press releases, 12.08.2020

Bern, 12.08.2020 – On 12 August 2020, the Federal Council adopted a voluntary report on the implementation of international humanitarian law by Switzerland. Seventy-one years after the adoption on 12 August 1949 of the Geneva Conventions, Switzerland is one of the first states to do so. Respecting, strengthening and promoting international humanitarian law are written into Switzerland's DNA. Switzerland intends to set an example and encourage other states to take similar initiatives. This would foster dialogue among states in order to improve the protection of victims of conflicts worldwide.

The voluntary report assesses best practices and the main challenges Switzerland faces in implementing international humanitarian law. It also provides the Interdepartmental Committee for International Humanitarian Law with a blueprint for an action plan setting out concrete measures to strengthen efforts to promote international humanitarian law. Switzerland is one of the first countries to take this step. The action plan foresees for example that Switzerland will help clarify how IHL should be implemented in relation to new technologies. As it campaigns for a seat in the UN Security Council, Switzerland will also work towards ensuring that the Council takes due consideration of international humanitarian law.

Foreign policy and domestic policy are inextricably linked. Swiss foreign policy is based on democratic dialogue with national actors. The Federal Council is committed to maintaining a dialogue on international humanitarian law with Parliament, the media, academic circles, non-governmental organisations and Swiss citizens. The Federal Council's policy on international humanitarian law is a reflection of Swiss values.

The 33rd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent was held in Geneva at the end of 2019. Members of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and representatives of states parties to the Geneva Conventions adopted a joint resolution entitled 'Bringing international humanitarian law home', aimed at improving the implementation of international humanitarian law at the national level.

The publication by states of voluntary reports on their efforts to implement international humanitarian law at the national level is a step towards the implementation of this resolution. At his opening address representing Switzerland at the conference, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis called for the strengthening of international humanitarian law, announced Switzerland's first voluntary report and encouraged other states to publish voluntary reports of their own. These kinds of reports enable exchanges between states on best practices and necessary measures to improve implementation of international humanitarian law.

Respecting, strengthening and promoting international humanitarian law are key priorities of Swiss foreign policy. Thanks to its neutrality, humanitarian tradition and role as the depositary state of the Geneva Conventions, Switzerland is able to engage meaningfully in this respect. Geneva has long been the historic centre of humanitarian aid and is now the world capital of humanitarian action. The first Geneva Convention was concluded in 1864 at the initiative of the Swiss government. The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols are the core of international humanitarian law. Today we are celebrating the 71st anniversary of the adoption of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949.

Ensuring a minimum of humanity in conflicts

International humanitarian law aims to save lives, alleviate suffering and ensure that a minimum of humanity is upheld in armed conflicts. It protects people who are not, or are no longer, involved in hostilities. It also limits the means and methods of warfare in armed conflicts. While international humanitarian law is generally respected, exceptions are still too numerous: executions of civilians, bombing of hospitals, torture, starvation, etc. Violations of international humanitarian law have unacceptable humanitarian consequences. That is why promoting respect for international humanitarian law is all the more important.

Further information:

Implementation of international humanitarian law
Voluntary report of the Federal Council
Action plan of the Interdepartmental Committee for IHL

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