Thousands march for peace in Ukraine

Some 10,000 people turned out, according to the organisers, despite wintry weather. Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

Some 10,000 people demonstrated on Saturday in the Swiss federal capital Bern for peace in Ukraine, according to the organisers.

This content was published on April 2, 2022

Demonstrators called for a ceasefire, withdrawal of Russian troops and tough sanctions against the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as a rapid reduction in dependence on Russian oil and gas. Their demands also included humanitarian support for refugees and a generous and non-discriminatory reception of refugees in Switzerland, according to an organisers’ statement. Another call was for particular emphasis on the situation of women, since most of the refugees from Ukraine are women and children who could be vulnerable to sexual abuse.

The demonstration was called by a range of left-wing and centre-right parties. Trade unions, civil society organizations and religious groups were also invited.

After marching through the old town of Bern to the federal parliament, there were speeches notably from Alexandra Karle, director of Amnesty International Switzerland, and Rita Famos, president of the Evangelical-Reformed Church, who made a call for peace on behalf of the Swiss Council of Religions. The demonstration ended with a minute's silence in memory of victims of the war.

Calls for justice

Demonstrators also called for an international investigation into war crimes and human rights violations. A number of judicial initiatives are already under way at international level. Switzerland is among a growing number of countries that have set up a unit to gather evidenceExternal link of possible Russian war crimes, notably from arriving refugees.

Meanwhile, prominent Swiss jurist Carla Del Ponte, former Prosecutor of the international tribunals for Rwanda and former Yugoslavia, called for the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to issue an arrest warrant for the Russian president. “Putin is a war criminal,” she said in an interview published by Le Temps newspaper on Saturday.

“Issuing such a warrant does not mean Putin will be arrested,” she told the paper. “If he stays in Russia, that will never be the case. But it will be impossible for him to leave his country, and that will be an important sign that many states oppose him.”

The ICC opened a preliminary investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine on March 3, after receiving requests from more than 40 states including Switzerland.

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