Related Rule
Switzerland
Practice Relating to Rule 144. Ensuring Respect for International Humanitarian Law Erga Omnes
In 2005, in a report in response to a parliamentary postulate on private security and military companies, Switzerland’s Federal Council stated:
5.3.3 Obligations of the state with regard to private security companies
Common Article 1 of the four Geneva Conventions states that the States Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the present convention under all circumstances. This means that the States Parties must see to it that all state players respect international humanitarian law. Moreover the contracting states have the duty to ensure that third parties, whether they are other states or private entities, also observe international humanitarian law. States cannot escape their obligations under international humanitarian law by placing certain tasks in the hands of private companies. In fact they have to ensure even more that the private security companies which they deploy in conflict situations, which are based in their state or which are operational on their territory, respect international humanitarian law. In addition, the contracting states are obliged to prosecute especially in cases of serious breaches of the Geneva Conventions regardless of where the act took place or the nationality of the perpetrator.
5.6 Switzerland’s obligations under international law and its role as a contracting party and depositary of the Geneva Conventions
As a contracting party to the Geneva Conventions, Switzerland has the duty to respect and “to ensure respect for the Conventions”. This involves the duty to see to it that the Geneva Conventions are observed by other states and individuals, including any Swiss-based private security companies active in conflict situations. This applies all [the] more so if Switzerland has itself mandated security companies to carry out certain tasks in conflict situations.
Switzerland is also active on a regular basis at the international level in promoting systematic compliance with the Geneva Conventions. Possible international initiatives that Switzerland could take are treated in the final part of this report …
6.2.2 Possible international role for Switzerland
The issue of private security companies operating in international crisis and conflict areas has become particularly acute since the 1990s. With the recent war in Iraq, and particularly events of this past year, the Swiss people and their parliament have also become increasingly aware of the subject. In the summer of 2004 the DFA [Federal Department of Foreign Affairs] expressed Switzerland’s concern regarding the incidents at Abu Ghraib prison (in Iraq) to representatives of the United Kingdom and the US. Employees of private security companies had been among those participating in those human rights violations.
That same year, then, the Swiss federal administration began increasingly to consider the appropriateness and potential of international, binational and supranational initiatives.
Switzerland is cooperating with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in this international process, having already drafted with that organisation common guidelines for intergovernmental initiatives. The first meetings with selected experts took place during the summer of 2005, and consultations with targeted individual states were held in autumn 2005. A conference of government experts is planned for 2006.
6.3 List of measures proposed by the Federal Council
The Federal Council intends to take the following steps:
5. The Federal Council, as far as possible in cooperation with the ICRC, wishes to initiate an international process aimed at contributing to an intergovernmental discussion, enhancing and clarifying the obligations under international law on the part of states and other actors, and studying regulatory models on the national, regional and international levels. 
Switzerland, Report by the Swiss Federal Council on Private Security and Military Companies, 2 December 2005, Sections 5.3.3, 5.6, 6.22 and 6.3, pp. 46, 50–51, 57–59.
[footnote in original omitted; emphasis in original]
In 2007, in its Mine Action Strategy of the Swiss Confederation for the Period 2008 to 2011, Switzerland stated:
4.4. Political and operational objectives:
The Federal Government has set itself the following political and operational objectives …
3. Strengthening the protection of the civilian population against the humanitarian consequences of anti-personnel mines and explosive remnants of war:
- Participation in conferences and international processes aimed at optimum implementation of existing international humanitarian law, and, where necessary, the formulation of new standards. 
Switzerland, Mine Action Strategy 2008 to 2011, 31 December 2007, Part 4.4(3).
In 2008, in its response to a question by a member of the National Council, Switzerland’s Federal Council wrote:
3. As depository state and contracting party to the [1949] Geneva Conventions, Switzerland wishes to underline the importance of respect for international humanitarian law by all the parties to the conflict, whether this concerns state armed forces, armed groups or individuals. Its call to respect international norms is thus addressed to all the parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel has the right and the duty to protect its territory and population against attacks. However, as a party to the conflict, it is bound by the obligations emanating from international humanitarian law. Furthermore, disrespect of the rules of international humanitarian law by one party to the conflict cannot legitimize violations of the law by the other party. 
Switzerland, National Council, Response by the Federal Council to Interpellation No. 08.3127, 14 May 2008, pp. 1–2.
In 2008, in its response to a question by a member of the National Council, Switzerland’s Federal Council wrote:
The Federal Council follows the situation in the Middle-East with interest and has, on several occasions, called upon the parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and the protection of the civilian population anchored in it. On 29 February 2008, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs once again called upon the parties to respect international law and to exercise the utmost restraint.
5. … Furthermore, the Israeli side was perfectly aware that this visit [by the commander of the Swiss Air force to the commander of the Israeli Air force] did not in any way imply approval of any military actions. 
Switzerland, National Council, Response by the Federal Council to Question No. 08.1003, 30 May 2008, pp. 1–2.
Switzerland’s Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Strategy (2009) states:
2. Why does the FDFA [Federal Department of Foreign Affairs] Need a Strategy on Civilian Protection?
The protection of civilians in armed conflict is firmly anchored in Swiss legislation and is a central component of Switzerland’s foreign policy:
- The promotion and defence of international law is one of the central pillars of Switzerland’s foreign policy.
- Its dual function as depositary and high contracting party to the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols confers on Switzerland a unique legitimacy in its efforts to ensure respect for international humanitarian law.
4. Switzerland’s Response
Furthermore, Switzerland has made respect for international law, as well as its … implementation permanent features of its foreign policy. It demands strict compliance with international humanitarian law and intervenes in certain conflicts at the bilateral and multilateral levels. It frequently calls on States to ratify the relevant treaties and to incorporate them into their national legislation. … And in the fight against impunity, Switzerland supports mechanisms for monitoring and implementing international law, as well as international criminal justice and transitional justice.
… In situations of armed conflict Switzerland maintains contact with the parties to the conflict and takes steps to remind them of the obligation to respect the rules of international humanitarian law. …
Either on its own or with the support of partners, Switzerland is able to raise public awareness, provide public testimony, draw the attention of the authorities and remind all concerned of the obligation to respect and ensure respect for humanitarian principles and the rules of international humanitarian law.
5. Strategic Choices
The FDFA has thus defined three strategic objectives with corresponding specific outcomes for the next four years:
- The normative framework ensuring the protection of civilians in armed conflict is adequate, known and respected by all parties involved
- The involved parties, in particular non-state actors, comply with the normative framework and respect their obligations. 
Switzerland, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Strategy, 2009, pp. 5, 11–13, 15; see also pp. 18–19.
[emphasis in original]
Switzerland’s ABC of International Humanitarian Law (2009) states:
Dissemination
Respecting and ensuring respect for international humanitarian law is one of the most important obligations of the States Parties to the Geneva Conventions of 1949. …
United Nations (UN)
… The Geneva Conventions and their First Additional Protocol require States Parties to take measures against serious violations of the Conventions or the Protocol in collaboration with the United Nations and in accordance with the UN Charter. 
Switzerland, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, ABC of International Humanitarian Law, 2009, pp. 16 and 39.
In 2009, in a statement before the UN Security Council during an open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the permanent representative of Switzerland stated:
The current situation in Gaza cries out to us the importance of the issue we are discussing today. The main victims of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are civilians. … In this context, we must stress how important it is that the provisions of international law, in particular those of international humanitarian law, do not remain empty words but that they are effectively implemented on the ground to ensure the maximum protection of the civilian population. …
Switzerland therefore reiterates its call for … strict compliance with international law by all parties to the conflict. This includes in particular the obligation to respect the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution. …
We welcome the appeal of the Security Council in its resolution 1860 of 8 January for an immediate ceasefire and for the unimpeded provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance throughout Gaza. … However, we are disappointed that the resolution makes no mention of the importance of respect for international humanitarian law. It is to be deeply regretted that this body of law – and therefore the references to the [1949] Geneva Conventions – have become the object of negotiation and political discretion. It is by insisting on the strict application of international humanitarian law in situations of armed conflict that the Council will achieve better protection of civilians. The Security Council underlined itself in its Presidential Statement of 27 May 2008 the importance of safe and unhindered access of humanitarian personnel to provide assistance to civilians in armed conflict in accordance with international law.  
Switzerland, Statement by the permanent representative of Switzerland before the UN Security Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, 14 January 2009, pp. 5–6.
In 2009, in response to a motion before the Council of States by the Commission on Foreign Policy, Switzerland’s Federal Council stated:
The humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka is of the highest concern to the Federal Council. It deplores the violations of international humanitarian law, in particular the undifferentiated and disproportional recourse to violence that has killed and wounded thousands of persons in the north of the country. …
Switzerland’s bilateral and multilateral engagement
Considering the dramatic situation, Switzerland has already reacted through different diplomatic instruments.
- It undertook several confidential representations to … Sri Lanka …
- On 5 February 2009, the FDFA [Federal Department of Foreign Affairs] issued a humanitarian appeal to the government of Sri Lanka and to the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam]. This appeal was [the] subject of a press release and was reiterated and further developed on 21 April 2009.
- On 11 February 2009, representatives of the FDFA met with the secretary of the Sri Lanka Ministry of Human Rights in Bern; the secretary also met with members of the Commission on Foreign Policy of the National Council.
- On 17 March 2009, Switzerland made a declaration at the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in Geneva. On 29 April, it mentioned the situation of Sri Lanka in the United Nations Security Council during a debate on children in armed conflict.
Humanitarian aid
The Federal Council considers that what is most urgent is to ensure respect of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict, the protection of the civilian population and the rapid access of humanitarian organizations, without restriction. 
Switzerland, Council of States, Response by the Federal Council to Motion No. 09.3358, 13 May 2009, pp. 1–2.
In 2009, in response to a postulate before the National Council, Switzerland’s Federal Council stated:
The Federal Council has, on several occasions during and after the cessation of hostilities in the north of Sri Lanka, launched an urgent appeal to the parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law. It has notably reminded the authorities of Sri Lanka of their responsibilities to carry out inquiries concerning allegations of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law and to bring to justice persons suspected of having committed violations of international law. 
Switzerland, National Council, Response by the Federal Council to Postulate No. 09.3472, 19 August 2009, p. 1.
In 2009, in response to a question by a member of the National Council, Switzerland’s Federal Council stated:
Bilaterally, Switzerland has manifested on several occasions its engagement in favour of international humanitarian law: it launched humanitarian appeals on 5 February and 21 April 2009, undertook several diplomatic démarches and pleaded for this cause during its meetings with representatives of the government of Sri Lanka. …
Multilaterally, Switzerland worked towards the convocation of the special session of the Human Rights Council on Sri Lanka, which took place in Geneva on 26 and 27 May 2009. Unfortunately, Switzerland did not manage to achieve [the adoption of] its proposals for the reinforcement of protection measures nor its call to prosecute and repress violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law. … In the framework of the 11th session of the Human Rights Council on 5 June 2009, Switzerland reaffirmed its concerns and recalled the promises made by Sri Lanka.
Humanitarian aid
The Federal Council considers that what is most urgent is to ensure the protection of the civilian population, in particular of evacuated victims of war and internally displaced [persons]. This is why Switzerland is actively engaged on the ground in ensuring that international aid organizations have access, without restriction, to these persons, that these persons have adequate support through the supply of food, medication and emergency shelter, and that they can return as quickly as possible to their region of origin, in safety and dignity. 
Switzerland, National Council, Response by the Federal Council to Question No. 09.1059, 19 August 2009, pp. 1–2.
In 2009, in its Report on Foreign Policy, Switzerland’s Federal Council stated:
3.3.6.2 Activities of Switzerland
… Switzerland makes clear that the search for peace works via respect for the norms and principles of international law (human rights, international humanitarian law and international criminal law) and that this is not negotiable.
… In 2008, as in previous years, [Switzerland] actively contributed to the development of diplomatic initiatives in multilateral fora in order to promote peace, respect for human rights and humanitarian law and dialogue on migration. 
Switzerland, Federal Council, Report on Foreign Policy 2009, 2 September 2009, Section 3.3.6.2, pp. 5796 and 5802; see also Section 3.2.2.3.4, p. 5738.
The Federal Council also stated:
Conflicts … have themselves become more complex. … In this context, two key challenges arise: ensuring that States and non-state armed actors respect the existing normative frameworks and providing operational responses adapted to the needs of civilians in the field.
In the sphere of humanitarian policy, 2008 was a year characterized by the effort to reinforce the efficiency and coherence of Switzerland’s action towards the civilian population. In this regard, a FDFA [Federal Department of Foreign Affairs] Strategy for the protection of civilians in armed conflict (2009 to 2012) was elaborated. …
In 2009 and for the next four years, the FDFA will seek to implement the main guiding principles of this strategy with a focus on three main subjects: the clarification, strengthening and respect of the normative framework granting protection to civilians in armed conflicts (through expert meetings on the challenges to international humanitarian law and the strengthening of mechanisms for monitoring and implementing this framework); the improvement of the operational response in favour of the protection of civilians in armed conflict (notably the protection of particularly vulnerable civilians, humanitarian access, and the safety of operational actors); and finally, the strengthening of its competencies in the protection of civilians.
2009 will also be marked by the finalization of the … Air and Missile Warfare Manual … which seeks to strengthen knowledge and respect of the international law in force. 
Switzerland, Federal Council, Report on Foreign Policy 2009, 2 September 2009, Section 3.3.7.2, pp. 5807–5808; see also Section 3.3.7.3, pp. 5810–5811.
[emphasis in original]
The Federal Council further stated:
Since 2005, the FDFA [Federal Department of Foreign Affairs] – through its Directorate of international law – has sought to ensure that private military and security companies [PMSC] better respect international humanitarian law and human rights in areas of conflict. It launched with the ICRC an intergovernmental initiative on the matter. … [T]he Montreux Document on private military and security companies was adopted on [17 September 2008].
The Montreux Document clarifies and reaffirms the obligations imposed by international law on States employing private military and security companies. According to the norms in force, States cannot circumvent [these obligations] by resorting to the use of private companies: they must take the necessary measures to prevent PMSC from violating international humanitarian law and human rights and put in place the necessary enforcement measures; they directly assume the responsibility for the acts of the PMSC they employ.
Other States, international organizations and PMSC are now invited to use the Montreux Document as a reference and to implement the measures proposed by it. 
Switzerland, Federal Council, Report on Foreign Policy 2009, 2 September 2009, Section 3.3.7.3, pp. 5812–5813.
[footnotes in original omitted; emphasis in original]
In 2010, in response to a motion by a member of the National Council, Switzerland’s Federal Council wrote:
Switzerland is committed to better respect for international humanitarian law. At the 30th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 2007 it pledged to take measures to reinforce the implementation of international humanitarian law applicable to journalists. Switzerland engages in multilateral fora, such as the Human Rights Council, and through bilateral representations or press releases to condemn violations of the law committed against journalists.
Recognizing that the implementation, on the ground, of the protection granted to journalists remains largely insufficient, Switzerland welcomes all initiatives aimed at strengthening the application of the existing rules and at improving respect for their obligations by the different parties to an armed conflict. Indeed, Switzerland is convinced that the too-numerous violations of international law committed against journalists are not due to insufficient norms but to a lack of respect for the law by the actors in armed conflicts and those who influence their behaviour. …
The Federal Council considers that the elaboration of a Convention is not an adequate means of improving the protection of journalists. However, consultations with governments and experts, in close collaboration with other States and the ICRC, to identify and clarify the different options available to the international community, including an international meeting on this topic, may prove judicious. In that regard, one can mention that the Human Rights Council has decided to hold a panel discussion on the protection of journalists in time of armed conflicts at its 14th session in June 2010. 
Switzerland, National Council, Response by the Federal Council to Motion No. 10.3040, 12 May 2010, p. 2.
In 2010, in response to a question by a member of the National Council, Switzerland’s Federal Council stated:
The Federal Council has, on several occasions during and after the cessation of hostilities in the north of Sri Lanka, launched appeals to the parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law. It has notably reminded the authorities of Sri Lanka of their responsibilities to carry out inquiries concerning allegations of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law and to bring to justice persons suspected of having committed violations of international law. 
Switzerland, National Council, Response by the Federal Council to Interpellation No. 10.3457, 8 September 2010, p. 2.
In 2010, in its response to a question by a member of the National Council, Switzerland’s Federal Council wrote:
Switzerland endeavours to contribute to the prevention of conflicts and the promotion of peace throughout the world, but particularly in the Middle East. … The positions of Switzerland are based on the protection of the civilian populations, respect for the law, respect for human rights, and in particular respect for international humanitarian law and the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Switzerland regularly calls for restraint by all the parties to the conflict and condemns violations of international humanitarian law committed by these.  
Switzerland, National Council, Response by the Federal Council to Interpellation No. 10.3424, 17 September 2010, p.2.
In 2010, in its Report on IHL and Current Armed Conflicts, Switzerland’s Federal Council stated:
5 Possible action by Switzerland
The following list offers a glimpse of the initiatives being carried out, or having been recently concluded, that aim to develop or reinforce the content of international humanitarian law:
- in 2006, Switzerland launched in collaboration with the ICRC an international process that led to the adoption by 17 States in September 2008 of the Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies. The Montreux Document lists the key rules of international humanitarian law, thus contributing to its reinforcement. Since 2008, 17 other States have adopted it;
6 Conclusion
In response to postulate 08.3445 of 20 June 2008 of the Commission on Foreign Policy of the Council of States, we can conclude …
- Switzerland carries out numerous projects aiming to develop or reinforce the content of international humanitarian law. In addition, it could organize in 2010 a tenth periodic meeting of the State Parties to the [1949] Geneva Conventions focused on implementation and monitoring mechanisms of international humanitarian law. 
Switzerland, Federal Council, Report on IHL and Current Armed Conflicts, 17 September 2010, Section 5, p. 25, Section 6, p. 28; see also Section 4.1, pp. 21–24.
[footnotes in original omitted]
In 2010, in its Report on Foreign Policy, Switzerland’s Federal Council stated:
Switzerland notes that in the Gaza strip, in particular, the humanitarian situation … of the population … [has] still not received a tangible response. The situation has deteriorated since the recent armed conflict (of December 2008 to January 2009). Switzerland regularly calls upon all the parties, including Israel as [the] occupying power, to respect their obligations. 
Switzerland, Federal Council, Report on Foreign Policy 2010, 10 December 2010, Section 2.5, p. 1025.
The Federal Council also stated:
The Israeli-Arab conflict, the crisis situations in Yemen and Iraq, as well as concerns over Iran will mobilize Switzerland’s attention in the Near and Middle East for the next years …
Its action concentrates as a priority on … respect for international humanitarian law. 
Switzerland, Federal Council, Report on Foreign Policy 2010, 10 December 2010, Section 2.5, p. 1028.
The Federal Council also stated in the section on international humanitarian law:
Switzerland has a long tradition, well regarded by the international community, of promoting and developing international humanitarian law. …
It continues to work, for example, to ensure that international humanitarian law systematically applies to private military and security companies, which are more and more being called upon in armed conflicts, and that the obligations have binding force for all the actors concerned. The Montreux Document of 2008 permitted the launch, with the ICRC, of a reference text synthesizing the law in force and suggesting concrete measures that States can take to regulate these private military and security companies. The text is today supported by 34 States. 
Switzerland, Federal Council, Report on Foreign Policy 2010, 10 December 2010, Section 4.2.5, p. 1104.
In 2011, in answer to an interpellation in Parliament, Switzerland’s Federal Council stated:
3. Due to the special status of Western Sahara, the fundamental and human rights of its population are guaranteed by the UN Charter and international humanitarian law. Switzerland engages in favour of respect for public international law, which supposes notably protection against the exploitation of resources … as well as respect for the guarantees stemming from international humanitarian law to the benefit of the population of Western Sahara. 
Switzerland, Answer by the Federal Council to interpellation 10.3976 in Parliament regarding unrest in Western Sahara, 16 February 2011.
In 2011, in answer to an interpellation in Parliament, Switzerland’s Federal Council stated: “The representatives of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs do not fail to regularly remind the de facto authorities in Gaza of their international obligations, notably as concerns the right of the ICRC to visit the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.” 
Switzerland, Answer by the Federal Council to interpellation 10.3991 in Parliament regarding the right of Gilad Shalit to receive visits from the ICRC, 16 February 2011.
In 2011, Switzerland’s Federal Council issued a communiqué on the continuation of measures promoting peace and human security 2012–2016, which stated:
Security missions, in particular those in conflict areas, are more and more often entrusted to private companies. At the initiative of Switzerland, a great number of private security companies from all over the world adopted, in Geneva in November 2010, an international code of conduct that binds them to respect human rights and international humanitarian law. 
Switzerland, Federal Council, Communiqué on the continuation of measures promoting peace and human security 2012–2016, 29 June 2011, p. 5894.
[emphasis in original]
The communiqué also stated:
As the Depositary State of the [1949] Geneva Conventions, Switzerland was the first State that adopted, in 2009, a strategy for the protection of civilians in armed conflicts. Combining the instruments of diplomacy – operational and legal – of the Confederation, it aims to address a double challenge: on the one hand, to get States and non-State armed groups to respect international law in armed conflicts and situations of armed violence, and on the other, to provide operational responses adapted to the needs of civilians on the ground. 
Switzerland, Federal Council, Communiqué on the continuation of measures promoting peace and human security 2012–2016, 29 June 2011, p. 5895.
The communiqué further stated that Switzerland “works for the universal ratification of the [1997 Ottawa] Convention [on Anti-Personnel Mines] and for making the prohibition of anti-personnel mines respected by non-State armed-groups.” 
Switzerland, Federal Council, Communiqué on the continuation of measures promoting peace and human security 2012–2016, 29 June 2011, p. 5905.
The communiqué also stated:
The Confederation works for the clarification of, reinforcement of and respect for the normative framework by all parties to the conflict. For example, it will continue to support the development of tools that aim to improve compliance with the norms by non-state armed groups and to make these tools available to the international community. It will also work for a reinforcement of the mechanisms for the implementation of the law. 
Switzerland, Federal Council, Communiqué on the continuation of measures promoting peace and human security 2012–2016, 29 June 2011, pp. 5914–5915.
In 2012, in its Report on Foreign Policy 2011, Switzerland’s Federal Council stated:
On 9 November 2010, representatives of about sixty private military and security companies signed the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers, an initiative launched by Switzerland in cooperation with industry associations and supported by the key government clients. By signing the code, private military and security companies commit to respect, in the context of their activities, the provisions of international humanitarian law and human rights law. 
Switzerland, Federal Council, Report on Foreign Policy 2011, 18 January 2012, p. 2766.
In the report, the Federal Council also stated:
The main problem and challenge with respect to international humanitarian law thus remains lack of respect for the existing rules by parties to the conflict. It is urgent to find concrete ways and means of ensuring better respect for international humanitarian law. …
Furthermore, Switzerland pursues its commitment to improved respect for international humanitarian law by non-state actors. It therefore works for wide support for the Montreux Document of 2008, a reference document – drafted with the ICRC – which summarizes the existing law and proposes concrete measures States can take to pertinently regulate military and security companies. … On the basis of this document, Switzerland supported the drafting of the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers. 
Switzerland, Federal Council, Report on Foreign Policy 2011, 18 January 2012, p. 2772–2773.
[footnote in original omitted]
In 2012, Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport issued the Mine Action Strategy of the Swiss Confederation 2012–2015, which stated:
1. Switzerland will actively contribute to the strengthening, the implementation and universal application of all international legal instruments in this domain, ratified by Switzerland, by
- Providing political leadership in the implementation of the conventions, including a proactive involvement in universalisation and implementation efforts as well as assuming effective official functions and responsibilities.
- Promoting the universal application of the conventions between governments at bilateral and multilateral level as well as by supporting international and non-governmental organisations.
- Providing contributions and political support for activities aimed at facilitating the adherence of non-state armed groups to humanitarian principles and the norms of international humanitarian law. 
Switzerland, Mine Action Strategy of the Swiss Confederation 2012–2015: Towards a world free of anti-personnel mines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war, February 2012, p. 16.
In 2012, Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs issued a press release entitled “Official visit to Bern by the Israeli Foreign Minister”, which stated:
On the basis of its tradition of offering its good offices and promoting international law, Switzerland has been committed for several years to advancing peace and stability in the Near East as well as respect for international humanitarian law through dialogue with all parties. The repeated violations of international humanitarian law by the different parties have made finding a solution to the conflict increasingly difficult. [Switzerland’s Federal Councillor] recalled that Switzerland had regularly appealed to all parties to respect their legal obligations and to enter into serious negotiations with the aim of resolving the conflict and improving the humanitarian situation. 
Switzerland, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, “Official visit to Bern by the Israeli Foreign Minister”, Press Release, 24 April 2012.
In 2012, Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs issued a press release entitled “Switzerland is concerned about the situation of the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike”, which stated:
Switzerland is concerned about the situation of the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike. … Switzerland takes this opportunity to recall the obligations on States to respect international humanitarian law and human rights, in particular with regard to conditions of detention. …
In keeping with its tradition of offering its good offices and promoting international law, Switzerland has been active in efforts to advance the peace process, respect for international humanitarian law, and stability in the Near East, in particular through dialogue with all parties concerned.
Recurrent violations of international humanitarian law by the different parties have made finding a solution to the conflict increasingly difficult. Switzerland therefore appeals to all parties to meet their obligations[.] 
Switzerland, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, “Switzerland is concerned about the situation of the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike”, Press Release, 10 May 2012.
In 2012, in a statement at the 19th Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council, the representative of Switzerland stated: “Switzerland calls on all actors in Syria to immediately put an end to the use of violence and to respect their obligations under international law.” 
Switzerland, Statement by the representative of Switzerland before the UN Human Rights Council during a debate on the deteriorating human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic and the recent killings in El-Houleh, 1 June 2012.
In 2012, in a speech on the occasion of Public International Law Day, the head of Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs stated:
It thus follows logically that Switzerland has made respect for, promotion and implementation of international humanitarian law a constant feature of its foreign policy. [This is] consistent with its obligation as a High Contracting Party [to the 1949 Geneva Conventions] to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law.
When necessary, Switzerland calls on parties to a conflict to respect their obligations stemming from international humanitarian law, as it has done, to date unfortunately without success, in Syria. Furthermore, it engages in concrete situations to improve respect for the law. For example, in the context of Sudan, it has carried out training activities in international humanitarian law. Switzerland also maintains a dialogue on international humanitarian law with different actors in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
To respond to this challenge [the “privatization” of war], Switzerland has launched, jointly with the ICRC, a process aiming to clarify the obligations of States in the area [of privatization of warfare]. This process has led to the Montreux Document, supported to date by 42 States as well as the European Union. This process has allowed to clarify and recall the obligations of States with regard to operations of private military and security companies during armed conflict and to strengthen the protection of civilian population in this context. 
Switzerland, Speech by the head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs on the occasion of Public International Law Day, 19 October 2012.
In 2012, Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs issued a press release entitled “The use of cluster munitions in Syria – FDFA Statement”, which stated:
Switzerland is extremely concerned about the many allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian law (IHL), and appeals to all parties [to] the conflict to ensure full compliance with their obligations. It is a matter of urgency that acts of violence and violations of IHL cease, and that humanitarian actors can gain access to the civilian population, which is exposed to the full impact of this prolonged armed conflict. 
Switzerland, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, “The use of cluster munitions in Syria – FDFA Statement”, Press Release, 24 October 2012.
In 2012, Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs issued a press release entitled “Official visit by the Palestinian President”, which stated:
During the meeting, the Head of the FDFA [Federal Department of Foreign Affairs] expressed his deep concern at the escalation of violence throughout the region. It is crucial that all measures of precaution be taken so as to spare the civilian population from the effects of the hostilities being conducted in one of the most densely populated zones in the world. He emphasized that Switzerland calls upon all of the parties to exercise a maximum of restraint, and strongly condemns the violations of international law perpetrated by all of the parties.
Generally speaking, on the basis of its tradition of offering its good offices and promoting international law, Switzerland has been committed for several years to advancing peace and stability in the Near East, as well as respect for international humanitarian law through dialogue with all parties. The repeated violations of international humanitarian law by the different parties have made finding a solution to the conflict increasingly difficult. Switzerland regularly appeals to all parties to respect their legal obligations and to enter into serious negotiations with the aim of resolving the conflict and improving the humanitarian situation. 
Switzerland, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. “Official visit by the Palestinian President”, Press Release, 15 November 2012.
In 2012, Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs issued a press release entitled “Appeal by the Swiss authorities for compliance with international humanitarian law in Syria”, which stated:
Deep concern about the humanitarian situation
1. As a High-Contracting Party to the [1949] Geneva Conventions and their [1977] Additional Protocols, Switzerland is committed to respect and ensuring respect for international humanitarian law.
3. It reminds the Syrian authorities that they have the primary responsibility to protect the civilian population.
International humanitarian law is applicable to non-international armed conflict.
4. International humanitarian law is applicable in non-international armed conflicts. All parties to the conflict are therefore obliged to respect its rules in all circumstances, including the rules protecting persons who are [not] or are no [longer] participating in the hostilities, as well as the rules relative to the means and methods of warfare.
Appeal to respect international rules
6. Switzerland calls on all parties to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law in all circumstances and to take the necessary measures to prevent and stop violations of international humanitarian law.
7. It recalls that in the conduct of military operations, all feasible precautions must be taken with a view to avoid incidental loss of civilian life injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects and collateral damage to civilian property. All parties are subject to the obligation to respect the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution. Moreover, international humanitarian law proscribes the act of spreading terror among the civilian population.
9. Switzerland appeals to all parties to the conflict to ensure rapid and unimped[ed] humanitarian access to populations in need. Moreover, the parties are subject to the obligation to respect and protect at all times fixed establishments and mobile medical units as well as all humanitarian actors.
10. Switzerland reminds the Syrian authorities of their responsibility to investigate all allegations of violations and to bring to justice alleged perpetrators of international law, in particular those suspected of having committed war crimes or crimes against humanity.
11. Switzerland reiterates its condemnation of the use of anti-personnel mines and cluster weapons against civilian populations, and appeals to all parties to the conflict to renounce the use of such weapons, which have indiscriminate and serious long-term consequences. 
Switzerland, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, “Appeal by the Swiss authorities for compliance with international humanitarian law in Syria”, Press Release, 15 November 2012.
In 2013, Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs issued the “Strategy on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts”, which states:
Introduction
… When a state is no longer willing or able to fulfil its obligation to protect the civilian population, the international community has a subsidiary responsibility. International humanitarian law requires compliance from all states involved in an armed conflict and also stipulates that third states have an obligation to intervene to enforce compliance. The other parties to the armed conflict, in particular non-state armed groups, also have a responsibility to take steps to ensure that the civilian population is adequately protected. 
Switzerland, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Strategy on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts, 2013, p. 7.
The Strategy also states:
Switzerland is both the Depositary State and High Contracting Party to the [1949] Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols. This dual capacity confers particular legitimacy on the Swiss Confederation in activities favouring compliance with international humanitarian law. 
Switzerland, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Strategy on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts, 2013, p. 8.
The Strategy further states:
While the normative framework for the protection of civilians is largely adequate, certain obligations are formulated in general terms and new practices and technologies create challenges that are not directly addressed in current legislation. In most cases, the response comes in the form of clarification or reaffirmation of existing obligations in certain areas. This is the case, for instance, of the initiative that gave rise to the “The Montreux Document on pertinent international legal obligations and good practices for States related to operations of private military and security companies during armed conflict.” Such clarifications or reaffirmations are essential in ensuring compliance with the normative framework. 
Switzerland, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Strategy on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts, 2013, p. 12.
The Strategy further states:
Whenever allegations of violations are made in relation to a given conflict, several instruments and mechanisms are applied to not only bring these violations to a halt but also to document them so that cases may be prosecuted later on; possible areas of action for Switzerland include interventions within various multilateral fora, the creation of commissions of inquiry, contacts with other states as well as sanctions. In some cases, Switzerland may also do advocacy work in favour of the protection of civilians within the context of its peace promotion activities.
- Where necessary, Switzerland will work with the states involved in an armed conflict or with multilateral institutions so that they may act in a manner that is compliant with the normative framework.
- Switzerland will support general conditions that help to prevent violations and encourage compliance with the law, in particular by working with the authorities and other local actors[.] 
Switzerland, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Strategy on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts, 2013, pp. 14–15.
In 2013, in its Report on Foreign Policy 2012, Switzerland’s Federal Council stated:
Private military and security companies: Switzerland remains actively engaged in the work for better respect for international humanitarian law by non-State actors … To this end, it works towards wide support for the Montreux Document of 2008 as text of reference. Drafted with the ICRC and to date supported by 43 States, the document synthesizes the law in force and suggests concrete measures States can take to regulate military and security companies in a pertinent manner. The Montreux Document is closely linked to the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers. 
Switzerland, Federal Council, Report on Foreign Policy 2012, 9 January 2013, p. 950.
In 2013, in a statement before the UN Security Council during a debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, Switzerland’s chargé d’affaires a.i. stated:
Further, we would like to share our deep concern about the ever-worsening situation with regard to humanitarian access in Syria. … It is also extremely worrying that the safety of humanitarian workers is not guaranteed. We therefore urge all parties to respect their obligations and to grant rapid and unimpeded access to civilians in need.
Non-state armed groups constitute a particular challenge with regard to compliance in most modern conflicts. There is a need to find a way to make sure these groups comply with their obligations and allow humanitarian access to populations in need of assistance. 
Switzerland, Statement by the chargé d’affaires a.i. of Switzerland before the UN Security Council during a debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, 12 February 2013.
In 2013, in a statement before the UN Human Rights Council, the representative of Switzerland stated:
Switzerland thanks the High Commissioner for the report on the situation of human rights in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories. … Respect by all parties for the obligations of international humanitarian law and human rights law constitutes by itself a significant contribution to the quest for peace. For this reason we reiterate our call on each party to strictly respect its respective and specific obligations. 
Switzerland, Statement by the representative of Switzerland before the UN Human Rights Council during a debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, 18 March 2013.
In 2013, in a statement before the 23rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council, the representative of Switzerland stated:
Switzerland condemns in the strongest terms … the violations of international humanitarian law … It thus calls on all actors in Syria to immediately put an end to the use of violence and to respect their international obligations, in particular those relating to the protection of civilians. 
Switzerland, Statement by the representative of Switzerland before the UN Human Rights Council during a debate on the deteriorating situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic, and the recent killings in Al-Qusayr, 29 May 2013.
In 2013, Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs issued a press release entitled “Situation in the Syrian city of Al-Kusair – Statement of the FDFA”, which stated: “The FDFA [Federal Department of Foreign Affairs] appeals again to all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations under international law and take all measures to protect the civilian population as well as all people who are not involved in the fighting.” 
Switzerland, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, “Situation in the Syrian city of Al-Kusair – Statement of the FDFA”, Press Release, 3 June 2013.
In 2013 in a statement during an interactive dialogue with the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria before the 23rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council, the representative of Switzerland stated: “Switzerland calls on all actors in Syria to immediately put an end to the use of violence and to respect their international obligations. We condemn in the strongest terms all … violations of international humanitarian law committed in Syria.” 
Switzerland, Statement by the representative of Switzerland before the UN Human Rights Council during an interactive dialogue with the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, 4 June 2013.
In 2013, in a statement before the UN Security Council during a debate on children and armed conflict, made on behalf of the Friends of Children and Armed Conflict, including Switzerland, the permanent representative of Canada stated:
The Friends further urge relevant Member States to allow for dialogue between the United Nations and non-state actors to influence them to cease violations against children and conclude and implement action plans to this end …
The Friends reiterate… [their] call for the [UN Security] Council to ensure that grave violations against children trigger the imposition of sanctions in all relevant sanctions committees[.] 
Switzerland, Statement by the permanent representative of Canada during a UN Security Council debate on children and armed conflict, made on behalf of the Friends of Children and Armed Conflict, namely Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Mali, Mexico, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Portugal, San Marino, Slovenia, Slovakia, South Africa, the Republic of Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania and Uruguay, 17 June 2013, pp. 1–2.
In 2013, in a statement before the UN Security Council during a debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, Switzerland’s chargé d’affaires a.i. stated: “We remain most concerned by reports of serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights in Syria. We call on all parties to fully adhere to their obligations and to end the violence”. 
Switzerland, Statement by the chargé d’affaires a.i. of Switzerland before the UN Security Council during a debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, 19 August 2013.
In 2013, Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs issued a press release entitled “The FDFA [Federal Department of Foreign Affairs] welcomes the latest international developments in the Syrian crisis”, which stated:
Switzerland reiterates its call to all parties to accept their responsibility … to protect the civilian population in conformity with the provisions of international humanitarian law.
Switzerland strongly condemns the serious violations of international humanitarian law, regardless of the perpetrator. The alleged use of chemical weapons is especially alarming. … It is important to prevent any further such violations and not to allow serious crimes to go unpunished, regardless of the alleged perpetrator. 
Switzerland, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, “The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs welcomes the latest international developments in the Syrian crisis”, Press Release, 10 September 2013.
[emphasis in original]
In 2013, in a statement at the Fourth Meeting of the States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the representative of Switzerland stated:
The Convention on Cluster Munitions is a relatively recent instrument of international law. Yet, it is already having a tremendous impact on the way the world perceives the use and production of cluster munitions. Although the convention is not yet universally ratified, the last few years showed that we move towards a stigmatisation of these weapons.
For this reason, we are concerned about continued information that cluster munitions are used in countries not party to the Convention. Switzerland has already and on several occasions ex-pressed its concern about the use of cluster munitions (as well as of antipersonnel mines) by the various parties to the conflict in Syria. We call upon all the parties to the conflict to respect the basic norms of international humanitarian law and to refrain from using weapons with indiscriminate effect such as cluster munitions (This call also extends to the use of antipersonnel mines). 
Switzerland, Statement by the representative of Switzerland at the Fourth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, 13 September 2013.
In 2013 in a statement before the UN Human Rights Council during an interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria and the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, the representative of Switzerland stated:
My delegation condemns in the strongest terms the violations … of international humanitarian law that continue to be perpetrated in Syria with total impunity.
Switzerland condemns in the strongest terms deliberate attacks against medical and humanitarian personnel as well as medical installations, which, let us recall, are protected under international humanitarian law. Switzerland demands once more that all parties respect the rules of international humanitarian law. 
Switzerland, Statement by the representative of Switzerland before the UN Human Rights Council during an interactive dialogue with the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria and the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, 16 September 2013.
In 2013, in a statement before the UN Human Rights Council during an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, the representative of Switzerland stated:
Switzerland is very concerned by the nature and extent of the violations of … humanitarian law [in Syria] described in the report. … In view of the grave circumstances, Switzerland calls on all parties to the conflict to respect the principles of international humanitarian law and to facilitate thus access to vulnerable persons. 
Switzerland, Statement by the representative of Switzerland before the UN General Assembly during an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, 16 September 2013.
In 2013, in a statement at the High-Level Segment of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme on Solidarity and Burden-Sharing with Countries hosting Syrian Refugees, the ambassador of Switzerland’s stated: “Switzerland calls on all parties to the conflict to ensure that the rules of international humanitarian law are strictly respected.” 
Switzerland, Statement by the ambassador of Switzerland at the High-Level Segment of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme on Solidarity and Burden-Sharing with Countries hosting Syrian Refugees, 30 September 2013.
In 2013, in a statement at the 64th Session of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the ambassador of Switzerland stated: “Switzerland calls once again on all parties to the conflict to ensure that the rules of international humanitarian law are strictly respected.” 
Switzerland, Statement by the ambassador of Switzerland at the 64th Session of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 1 October 2013.
In 2013, in a statement before the UN General Assembly during an interactive dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, the representative of Switzerland stated:
Switzerland condemns in the strongest terms the deliberate attacks against the civilian population, including medical and humanitarian personnel, as well as against civilian, and especially medical, infrastructure. Such attacks constitute serious violations of international humanitarian law. Switzerland once again calls on all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations under international law. 
Switzerland, Statement by the representative of Switzerland before the UN General Assembly during an interactive dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, 24 October 2013.
In 2013, in a statement at the Meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the permanent representative of Switzerland stated:
Switzerland is deeply concerned by the alleged use of weapons in Syria falling within the ambit of the CCW [1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons] and its respective protocols, such as the alleged use of anti-personnel mines as well as the alleged use of incendiary weapons in populated areas causing severe human suffering. We call upon all parties to the conflict to comply with their obligations under international law, in particular the principles of distinction, precaution, and proportionality. 
Switzerland, Statement by the permanent representative of Switzerland at the Meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, 14 November 2013.
In 2013, in a speech delivered at the Montreux+5 Conference, the federal councillor of Switzerland stated:
Mankind has given itself rules to avoid that wars slip into deepest barbarism. The Montreux Document is here to remind us that these rules not only apply to States but also to Private Military and Security Companies. That we have a shared responsibility to uphold the rules established to protect human dignity in armed conflicts.
The monopoly on the use of force entails a responsibility for the States: they have to make sure that private military and security companies respect human rights norms and humanitarian law in armed conflicts.
Because they are present on battlefields, private companies also have a responsibility and a legal obligation to respect humanitarian law and human rights norms. Upholding the basic principles of humanity in armed conflict is a shared responsibility.
… Switzerland is convinced that improving the compliance with the law of armed conflicts is not only a legal obligation but a moral duty. Insufficient protection is due today mainly to the lack of compliance with already existing laws.
A few years back, some critics argued that private military and security companies operate in a legal vacuum. Switzerland wanted to demonstrate that this thesis is wrong: There are rules deriving from international humanitarian law, international human rights law, State responsibility and other sources applicable to all those involved in an armed conflict, including to private contractors.
The Montreux Document does not create new legal obligations. It merely recalls the pertinent international laws, applicable to States, private military and security contractors and their personnel in situations of armed conflicts and identifies good practices.
Regardless of their support for the initiative, States are bound by the international legal obligations contained in the Document, by virtue of their ratification of the Geneva Conventions and other treaties as well as by customary international law.
States have a responsibility to respect and enforce humanitarian law. But it is a responsibility shared, shared with private military and security contractors. 
Switzerland, Speech by the Federal Councillor entitled “Preserving human dignity in armed conflicts: a shared responsibility” at the Montreux+5 Conference, 11 December 2013.
Human rights policy
Diplomatic initiatives: … In February 2013, the text of the governance and oversight mechanism of the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers was successfully negotiated. In September 2013, an ad hoc association bringing together the private security companies having adopted the Code, as well as NGOs and governments, was established in Switzerland. The objective of this mechanism is to ensure that companies which have adopted the Code fulfil their commitments in terms of respect for human rights and international humanitarian law …
Initiative for strengthening respect for international humanitarian law: as a follow-up to the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent held at the end of 2011, Switzerland jointly launched with the ICRC an initiative on strengthening respect for international humanitarian law. This initiative adopts the opinion of a majority of States convinced that increased respect for international humanitarian law is a prerequisite for improving the situation of victims. It is within this context that, during the second meeting held in June, States discussed measures designed to implement the initiative, such as the creation of a forum for systematic dialogue and the introduction of effective mechanisms that would enable the monitoring of compliance with international humanitarian law.
Action plan to prevent the abuse of children within the context of the phenomenon of child soldiers