Swiss Federal Council accused of a weak response to atrocities in Bucha

Swiss Federal Council accused of a weak response to atrocities in Bucha

The Foreign Minister and President of Switzerland, Ignazio Cassis, has been criticised for his ministry’s weak response to the alleged war crimes committed in Bucha by Russian forces. While the US, UK and Germany have all condemned the massacre and named Russia as the culprit, Switzerland refrained from calling the massacre a “war crime,” instead choosing to call it an “event”.

Swiss statement on Bucha considered too soft

While Switzerland was one the first countries to highlight the atrocities in Bucha - with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs first tweeting about it on Sunday - the statement called for an independent investigation into events but did not describe the killings in Bucha as a war crime or a massacre. The statement also did not mention Russia as the culprit and instead called on “all sides” to adhere to humanitarian law. 

The statement was immediately condemned by National Council members in Bern, with councillor Fabian Molina calling the statement “insanely soft.” Others said the statement showed how out of step the country and government are in their attitudes toward neutrality, with National Council Eric Nussbaumer noting the tone showed the “current distress of Swiss foreign policy: isolated, alone - geopolitically outdated."

Tweet on Bucha based too much on neutral language

Speaking to the Tages-Anzeiger on Monday, the president said, “The tweet was probably written too firmly in an administrative language. That's how diplomacy works. It's careful." However, he said that he himself had been deeply affected by the “atrocity,” stating, "There are hardly any words that would be strong enough to condemn such barbarism."

Cassis recognised that the wording of the statement could have been stronger, but noted that Switzerland was among the first countries in the world to call for an investigation. "At the moment, everything indicates that a Russian perpetrator is responsible for the blatant violation of international humanitarian law,” he said.

Switzerland ideally placed to launch investigation into Bucha

“Switzerland does more than just tweet,” said Cassis. He made the point that the alpine nation is ideally placed to launch enquiries into the massacre at the International Criminal Court, the OSCE and the UN Human Rights Council, all of which are based in Geneva

He went on to say that the crisis challenged him as a person, as a foreign minister and as president: "As a person, the war and the atrocities weigh on me emotionally. As Foreign Minister, I am frustrated when I think of the long-standing commitment of Swiss foreign policy to peace and against war. As Federal President, I may now lead a crisis-tested staff. But the pandemic was already a tour de force for the Federal Council, and now we have an even greater crisis."

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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