Punishing crimes of aggression: Switzerland ratifies amendments to Rome Statute

Bern, 10.09.2015 - The prohibition under international law of the use of force between States is to be enforced more effectively, and the commission of war crimes further suppressed. Switzerland today ratified corresponding amendments to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

On the occasion of a Review Conference held in June 2010, two significant elements were added to the Rome Statute, the treaty founding the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The first was the definition of the crime of aggression. This makes it possible to hold high-ranking individuals responsible for orchestrating an act of aggression which constitutes a manifest violation of the prohibition on the use of force in the Charter of the United Nations.

The second amendment extended the existing scope of offences considered war crimes. The use of poison or poisoned weapons, gas and similar substances and devices, as well as dum-dum bullets is now also an offence in a non-international armed conflict.

The punishment of these crimes is an important contribution to the peaceful coexistence of peoples, to promoting respect for human rights and to alleviating need and poverty in the world, all of which are enshrined in the Constitution as core objectives of Swiss foreign policy. For this reason Switzerland has advocated bringing these crimes under the ICC's jurisdiction.

The Federal Assembly adopted the two amendments on 20 March 2015. With no referendum called during the set period, ratification now means that the amendments will enter into force for Switzerland in one year's time. For the ICC to exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression, however, the States Parties to the Statute must take an additional decision. Ratification in itself does not entail any amendment of Swiss criminal law.

The International Criminal Court is a permanent institution based in The Hague in the Netherlands. It is responsible for punishing the most serious crimes. The ICC was established by the Rome Statute, which has so far been ratified by 123 states including Switzerland. Switzerland has always advocated strongly in favour of the ICC.

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