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Switzerland Continues to Spearhead Efforts to Support the Ratification of the War Crime of Starvation in Non-International Armed Conflicts

9 June 2021

During this year’s UN Security Council Protection of Civilians Open Debate, Switzerland, issued a Statement on behalf of the Group of Friends of the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict (GoF PoC), which also includes the Netherlands, Belgium, and Liechtenstein. The statement expressed “grave concern at the dramatic increase in the number of persons facing crisis levels of acute food insecurity”, and stressed the need for additional efforts “to prevent and alleviate hunger in armed conflict, in line with IHL and UNSC resolutions 2417 (2018) and 2573 (2021).” The GoF Parties to the Rome Statute further reiterated their appeal to States parties to the Rome Statute “to consider the ratification of the amendment related to the intentional use of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare in non-international armed conflicts.”


Recognising the importance and relevance to date of starvation crimes, including when committed in the context of non-international armed conflicts, Ambassador Corinne Cicéron Bühler, Head of the Directorate of International Law, commented in an interview  that  “It is essential that victims in affected communities are able to secure justice. Investigating, documenting and thus acknowledging this crime contributes to reconciliation in communities, which can lead to peaceful coexistence and a lasting resolution of the conflict. Ratification would therefore constitute an active contribution to ending impunity as a peacebuilding measure.”


From an initial proposal in the Working Group on Amendments of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) in April 2018, up to the historic adoption of the Swiss proposal to include the war crime of intentionally starving the civilian population in non-international armed conflicts in December 2019, Switzerland has been a leading force on the diplomatic plane in relation to its efforts to support and enhance the effectiveness of the International Criminal Court (ICC). In continuance of these efforts, on 19 May 2021, Switzerland’s Federal Council in compliance with its Foreign Policy Strategy 2020-23 (FPS), addressed the Federal Assembly to approve the Starvation Amendment to the ICC Rome Statute, leading the way for other States Parties to follow suit.


GRC has engaged with the Swiss government during the passage of the amendment, including through a high-level panel event with the Swiss on the amendment during the International Law Week and three policy papers to support the amendment sequentially in MayJune and July 2019 to mirror the dates when the Working Group on Amendments of the ASP to the ICC met to discuss the proposed amendment.


GRC possesses unrivalled global expertise and granular knowledge on the crime of starvation and right to food violations, derived from a dedicated starvation portfolio established in 2017.  Through the generous support of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, GRC is leading Phase II of its Accountability for Mass Starvation Project. The Project seeks to promote understanding and implementation of the landmark UN Security Council Resolution S/RES/2417 which highlights that “starvation of civilians as a method of warfare may constitute a war crime” and a threat to international peace and security. 


For more information on GRC’s starvation project, please see:

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