In a 24 to 15 vote (with 2 abstentions), the Council of States of the Swiss Federal Assembly has joined the National Council today in calling on the Swiss government to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and submit it to Parliament for ratification without delay. This vote follows a public backlash against the government’s decision in August to adopt a wait-and-see approach to the TPNW. The Parliament’s resounding yes sends the signal that – especially in the face of current international tensions – the humanitarian and security reasons for joining the Nuclear Ban Treaty prevail.
Switzerland’s position on the Nuclear Ban Treaty
Switzerland was among the 122 countries that voted in favour of the TPNW’s adoption in July 2017, but has been sitting on the fence about joining ever since. On June 5th, the National Council adopted a motion (17.4241) encouraging the Federal Council to sign the Treaty without delay. But in August, the Federal Council announced that Switzerland would not sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons “at this juncture.” The government even contemplated the “option” of placing itself under “a nuclear umbrella” in case of attack.
That move was met with widespread disapproval. ICAN Switzerland thoroughly analysed the report accompanying the decision and together the Swiss Red Cross and ICAN partners PSR/IPPNW Switzerland, Swiss Churches, and Sortir du Nucléaire Suisse Romande, talked to parliamentarians from all parties. Additionally, ICAN Switzerland collected signatures for a petition calling on Switzerland to sign the TPNW, and today’s result is also a victory for the more than 25,000 people who signed it. Together, they convinced members of Upper Chamber to vote for the motion today.
“Together with the over 25,000 people who signed our petition we are extremely happy about today’s vote. The people do not want a nuclear umbrella!” said Maya Brehm, co-founder of ICAN Switzerland. “The next step is clear: Waiting is not an option. The Federal Council must immediately sign the TPNW,” Brehm continued.
Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN, also welcomed the move: “This decision by the Swiss parliament is a resounding victory for democracy and grassroots activism, and a clear signal that legislators have a big role to play in securing the success of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Working in partnership with ICAN campaigners, parliamentarians will be leading the charge in all states – including those that endorse nuclear weapons – to get their governments to reject any role for nuclear weapons in their national security doctrines.
“We look forward to the Swiss government returning to its humanitarian tradition of leading in nuclear disarmament efforts by following the decision of its parliament to immediately sign and ratify the TPNW.”