ZURICH – Switzerland’s lower house on Thursday backed legal changes that will allow the usually country to impose sanctions independently of other nations or international group on people or entities that have violated international humanitarian law.
The lower chamber of Switzerland’s parliament voted in favour of change to the so – called embargo law in a debate dominated by the topic of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Currently, Switzerland can only adopt sanctions imposed by the United Nations (UN), the Organisation for Security and Co – operation in Europe (OSCE) or big trading partners like the European Union (EU).
Future stand – alone sanctions could be directed against or entities such as companies that are linked to serious violations of international humanitarian law or similar crimes.
Centre and left – wing parties were in favour of the idea of independent sanctions, while the right – wing Swiss people’s party opposed them. The upper house will have to review the proposal.
Some say Switzerland’s carefully nurtured tradition of not taking sides has helped it prosper peacefully and maintain a special role as intermediary over the year.
The move to revise the law began well before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the importance of independent sanctions came into focus when Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko ceded ownership of Switzerland – based fertiliser group EuroChem Group AG and of Russia – based coal producer SUEK AO to his wife on March 8, the day before he was sanctioned by the European Union.
Melnichenko’s wife, Aleksandra Melnichenko, has since been sanctioned by the EU but has contested the sanctions. Her name did not appear on the Swiss sanctions list on Thursday.
Also on Thursday, Switzerland’s lower house rejected the creation of taskforce for the freezing of Russian and Belarusian oligarchs’ assets.