Henry Dunant must be rolling in his grave. This Swiss businessman and man of humanity, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1901, is considered the founder of the Red Cross movement, whose international committee is located in Geneva. Proud of this paternity, Switzerland does not seem to derive from it, in the case of the conflict in Ukraine, a duty of responsibility. While NATO asked the country in May to take in Ukrainian war wounded, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs took the decision not to respond favorably to this request.

The reason given: the sacrosanct neutrality, which sticks to the skin of Switzerland like a justified cliché. The government considers that its neutrality obliges it to respect conditions which prevent it from receiving wounded Ukrainian fighters. According to the Geneva Conventions on humanitarian law, Switzerland should ensure that foreign soldiers treated on its soil cannot return to combat. So, according to the letter, they should imprison them. As a second argument, Berne emphasizes that if the texts authorize it to treat civilians, they prohibit it from taking care of the military. However, the border is currently difficult to delimit, knowing that a large part of the Ukrainian fighters are civilians…

Far from justifying the decision, these explanations seem to ridicule the government. Especially since the cantons and hospitals have said they are in favor of such a reception. “From a humanitarian point of view, the care of civilians would have been desirable”, soberly declared the Conference of Cantonal Health Directors, which recalls that the latest report from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reports more than 10,000 civilians injured in Ukraine. Contacted by Radio Télévision Suisse, the Red Cross declared that nothing obliged a third State to receive war wounded.

Less diplomatic, the journalist Eric Felley expressed his misunderstanding on the Swiss website Le Matin. “Is it therefore here that Switzerland’s neutrality in this conflict is at stake? Certainly not. After the resumption of European sanctions or declarations of support for Ukraine, Switzerland is in this conflict like its European neighbors, alongside Ukraine and not Russia. This decision also contradicts the spirit of welcoming tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees since the beginning of the conflict,” he wrote.

Because before taking this decision, Switzerland was on the same wavelength as the countries of the European Union, from which it took over the sanctions packages, even going so far as to sanction on its own initiative the daughters of Vladimir Putin. , which reside on its soil. As Eric Felley reminds us, Switzerland has also been generous in welcoming Ukrainian refugees, granting “protection status S” to the vast majority of those who apply for it.

If, as in many States, a certain fatigue affects the Swiss population, which is worried about the costs linked to the reception of Ukrainians, the decision of the FDFA is surprising. Especially since Switzerland is not the only officially neutral country to have been asked to take in the wounded. NATO has also turned to Austria, aligned with the same policy as its neighbour, but which has promised to treat the wounded Ukrainians sent to it.