Israeli President Isaac Herzog is the subject of criminal complaints during his visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Swiss prosecutors have confirmed, as Israel finds itself accused of committing war crimes in Gaza.
“The criminal complaints will be examined according to the usual procedure,” the Office of the Swiss Attorney General said on Friday, adding that it would contact the Swiss foreign ministry to examine the question of immunity of the individual concerned.
The AFP news agency obtained a statement allegedly issued by the people behind the complaint, entitled “Legal Action Against Crimes Against Humanity”. It said several unnamed individuals had filed charges with federal prosecutors and with cantonal authorities in Basel, Bern and Zurich.
The statement said the plaintiffs were seeking a criminal prosecution in parallel to a case brought before the United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ) by South Africa, which has accused Israel of genocide in its offensive in Gaza.
A spokesperson for Herzog’s office did not comment on the statement by Swiss prosecutors, saying only that Herzog had been to Davos to present Israel’s position on the situation in Gaza.
While it could take years for the ICJ to produce a final verdict, South Africa asked the court to instruct “provisional measures” – a temporary order for Israel to stop the war – while the case is pending.
Israel has called South Africa’s accusations “baseless” and a “blood libel”.
Days after October 7 – when Hamas fighters launched an unprecedented attack into southern Israel killing nearly 1,200 people – the Israeli president said it was not only Hamas fighters but “an entire nation” that was responsible for the violence and that Israel would fight “until we break their backbone”.
After the Hamas attack, Israel launched a ferocious bombardment of Gaza that has killed more than 24,500 people, 70 percent of whom are women and children, according to the United Nations.
Under international law, universal jurisdiction is based on the principle that certain crimes are so serious that their perpetrators must be prosecuted transcending borders. This means that states or international organisations can file legal complaints against people regardless of their nationality or where the alleged crime was committed. Such cases are usually related to international crimes.