Israel president Herzog hit with criminal complaint in Switzerland over war in Gaza

Israeli President Isaac Herzog has been targeted with a criminal complaint during a visit to Switzerland, Swiss prosecutors said on Friday, amid allegations of crimes against humanity over the war in Gaza.

The Federal Prosecutor’s Office (BA) confirmed that it had received a criminal complaint against the Israeli president, who was at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos on Thursday to discuss the Gaza war.

“The criminal complaints will now be examined in accordance with the usual procedure,” BA said in a statement, adding that it was in contact with the foreign ministry “to examine the question of the immunity of the person concerned”.

It did not say what the specific complaints were, or who had filed them.

But a statement allegedly issued by the people behind the complaint, entitled “Legal Action Against Crimes Against Humanity” and obtained by AFP, said several unnamed individuals had filed charges with federal prosecutors and with authorities in Basel, Bern and Zurich.

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A picture taken from southern Israel on the border with the Gaza Strip shows smoke billowing over the Palestinian territory during Israeli bombardment on Friday, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. Photo: AFP

The statement said the plaintiffs were seeking a criminal prosecution in parallel to a case brought before the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) by South Africa, which accuses Israel of genocide in its offensive in Gaza.

Addressing the issue of immunity, the statement suggested that it could be lifted “in certain circumstances”, including in cases of alleged crimes against humanity, adding that “these conditions are met in this cse”.

South Africa launched the emergency case at the ICJ in The Hague this month, arguing that Israel had breached the 1948 UN Genocide Convention.

South Africa demanded that the judges order Israel to halt its offensive in the Palestinian territory. Israel has denounced the case as “distorted”.

Fighting has ravaged the Gaza Strip since Hamas’s attacks on Israel on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of about 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

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Israel’s President Isaac Herzog at a 24-hour protest in Tel Aviv on Sunday that called for the release of Israeli hostages in Gaza. Photo: Reuters

Israel responded with a relentless offensive that has killed at least 24,762 Palestinians, around 70 per cent of them women, children and adolescents, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.

Herzog told the Davos forum that Israel had launched its campaign in “self-defence” and again condemned the South Africa case as “outrageous”.

“They (South Africa) basically support the atrocities and barbarism that we have seen on October 7,” he said, adding that Israel was concerned about the destruction in Gaza.

“We care. It is painful for us that our neighbours are suffering so much,” he said.

“But how else can we defend ourselves if our enemies decided to entrench themselves in an infrastructure of terror of unbelievable size and scope?” he said.

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