Israel president hit with criminal complaint in Switzerland: prosecutors

Israel president hit with criminal complaint in Switzerland: prosecutors
The Israeli president has been hit with a criminal complaint in Switzerland over Israel's relentless war on Gaza since October 7.
3 min read
Herzog claimed Israel was acting in "self-defence" and slammed South Africa's genocide case [Getty]

Israeli President Isaac Herzog has been targeted with a criminal complaint during a visit to Switzerland, Swiss prosecutors said 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 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 UN's International Court of Justice by South Africa, which accuses Israel of genocide in its air and ground 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 case".

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".

Israeli bombardment has ravaged the Palestinian territory since October 7. At least 24,620 people have been killed, most of them civilians.

Hamas launched a surprise attack in southern Israel on October 7, in response to what the group says is decades of Israeli blockade and aggression. The unprecedented attack killed an estimated 1,100 people and Hamas took more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli figures. Israel says 132 remain in Gaza.

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.