Swiss Federal Council has received legal clarifications on frozen Russian assets

Bern, 15.02.2023

In the context of international proposals to use frozen Russian assets to rebuild Ukraine, the Federal Council sought official clarification on the legal basis for any such action. A working group led by the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) concluded that the confiscation of private Russian assets would undermine the Federal Constitution and the prevailing legal order. The Federal Council noted the working group’s conclusions at its meeting on February 15, 2023. Support for Ukraine will continue, independent of the discussions on frozen assets.

Russia has violated international law in attacking Ukraine and therefore has an obligation to pay reparations to Ukraine for the damages incurred. Against the backdrop of international discussions and several parliamentary requests, the Federal Council asked the administration to examine the legal situation concerning assets that are currently frozen in Switzerland as a result of sanctions against Russia. An internal working group led by the FOJ has informed the Federal Council of its conclusions.

The right to property: a fundamental right

The working group representing the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the State Secretariat for International Finance (SIF) and the Directorate of International Law (DIL), led by the FOJ, concluded that the expropriation of private assets of lawful origin without compensation is not permissible under Swiss law. The confiscation of frozen private assets is inconsistent with the Federal Constitution and the prevailing legal order and violates Switzerland’s international commitments. Other countries have similar constitutional rights and guarantees.

Switzerland to engage in international discussions

A further matter under international discussion is the possibility of confiscating Russia’s central bank currency reserves and other state assets. The introduction of tougher criminal penalties for violating sanctions is also being examined. Switzerland is closely following these proposals and contributes its views to the discussions. The relevant offices will inform the Federal Council regularly on international developments in this regard.

Switzerland to continue its support for Ukraine

Independent of the discussions on frozen Russian assets, the Federal Council has reiterated its intention to continue its support for Ukraine.