Israel will not tolerate the arrest of Israeli officials in Switzerland who have allegedly committed war crimes, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz told his Swiss counterpart.
Katz is in Lucerne, Switzerland, to mark 70 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Switzerland. Katz on Monday met with Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis and told him Israel is concerned with Swiss legislation that allows citizens to file complaints against people whom they think committed crimes against humanity.
Switzerland is one of the countries that assume universal jurisdiction, allowing it to prosecute any individual suspected of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes committed anywhere in the world if that person is currently on Swiss territory.
Switzerland transferred responsibility for prosecuting of international crimes from the military to civil judicial authorities in 2012. However, it has yet to bring any cases to trial.
The Swiss legislation could potentially bring to arrest Israeli officials visiting Switzerland. The concern of such an arrest was the reason former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently cancelled his visit to Switzerland, after being forewarned he would be arrested upon entry to the country.
“We will not tolerate doubts about our right to self-defense and threats of the arrest of senior Israeli officials,” Katz said.
The Foreign Ministry’s legal counsel joined the delegation to Switzerland, and together with an Israeli legal team will work with the Swiss government to reach an agreement on the legal issues at hand.
Katz attended a ceremony Monday night celebrating 70 years of Israeli-Swiss diplomatic relations, in which the Israeli Philharmonic performed, led by conductor Zubin Mehta.
“This event reflects the connection [between] European Jewry’s dark past [and] the optimistic present of a strong [Israel]. In Basel, Herzl envisioned the state of the Jews; today we’re making his vision a reality,” Katz tweeted after the event.