Switzerland's stance on the protests in Iran

Since mid-September 2022, thousands of people in Iran have been taking to the streets to demand respect for women's rights and freedom of expression, and to demonstrate against the current government in Tehran. The Iranian authorities have been responding with violence. Switzerland condemns this reaction and is working bilaterally and multilaterally to promote respect for human rights and bring about de-escalation. This article provides a timeline and answers to questions concerning Switzerland's stance.


The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini triggered widespread protests in Iran in mid-September 2022. The people protesting risk losing their rights and even their lives. During the protests, over 15,000 people have been arrested and hundreds have died. The authorities started executing protesters in early December.

Switzerland's human rights diplomacy focuses on fighting for the freedom of expression and working to stop torture and abolish the death penalty. Accordingly, Switzerland condemns the human rights violations in Iran – which include the excessive use of force by security forces, large-scale restrictions on internet access, and executions related to the protests. It maintains regular contact with the Iranian authorities and seizes every opportunity to speak out against the use of violence and the death penalty and promote respect for human rights.

Switzerland's work at intergovernmental level

September 2022

On 20 September 2022, just four days after the death of Mahsa Amini, President of the Swiss Confederation Ignazio Cassis met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the UN General Assembly in New York. At the meeting, Mr Cassis expressed his concern about the situation in Iran.

October 2022

On 5 October, Switzerland tweeted its stance on the situation in Iran – a stance it had been asserting at all bilateral meetings and in multilateral bodies since mid-September.

Translation of the tweet


Switzerland is deeply dismayed by the many deaths in connection with the protests in Iran. It condemns the excessive use of force by the Iranian security forces against the demonstrators. As already stated at multilateral level, Switzerland calls on the Iranian government to exercise restraint and ensure that citizens' right to freedom of expression is respected, including on social media. In addition, Switzerland once again calls on the Iranian government to swiftly honour its promise to launch an impartial and transparent investigation into the circumstances of Mahsa Amini's death. Switzerland continues to work bilaterally and multilaterally for the protection of human rights in Iran, including as regards the freedom of expression and assembly, abolition of torture and the death penalty, women's rights, and the protection of minorities.

On 26 September and 18 October, Switzerland summoned the Iranian chargé d'affaires in Bern and called on Iran to show restraint in its reactions to the protests and to lift the internet restrictions. In parallel, the Swiss ambassador to Iran raised the case of Mahsa Amini before the chairman of the Iranian judiciary's High Council for Human Rights.

December 2022

Switzerland publicly condemned the first execution of a demonstrator immediately in early December.

Translation of the tweet


Switzerland vehemently condemns today's execution in Iran in connection with the demonstrations, as well as the public execution carried out yesterday by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Switzerland opposes the death penalty whatever the circumstances and advocates for a world without capital punishment.

On 13 December, Switzerland again raised the issue with the Iranian chargé d'affaires in Bern and at the Iranian foreign ministry in Tehran. It strongly condemned the recent executions in connection with the protests and called on the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation and stop the executions immediately.

On 23 December 2022, the Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and President of the Swiss Confederation Ignazio Cassis personally called upon the Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi for Iran to respect its international obligations and to immediately stop the executions.

January 2023

At the beginning of January 2023, two more people were executed in Iran. The FDFA condemned the executions in a tweet.

Switzerland's work at multilateral level

Switzerland already called for a swift, impartial and independent investigation into the case of Mahsa Amini at the UN Human Rights Council on 26 September 2022.

The country also made a similar statement on 26 October in the Committee on Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs of the UN General Assembly. On this occasion, Switzerland publicly condemned Iran's violent response to the people's protests.

Switzerland also supported a Human Rights Council resolution adopted at a special session on Iran on 24 November. The resolution provides for the establishment of a fact-finding mission to document and secure evidence of human rights violations.


What is Switzerland doing in Iran to help bring about respect for human rights?

Switzerland relies on cooperation with international organisations in its human rights work in Iran. Specifically, Switzerland supports projects of UNICEF and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the area of juvenile justice in Iran.

The goals of these projects include improving access to minors' – including girls' – access to justice and imposing a moratorium on the use of capital punishment for persons who were minors when the offence was committed.

The Swiss embassy in Tehran also supports NGO projects in the fields of development, humanitarian aid and human security that benefit the people of Iran.

At political level, Switzerland is conducting a human rights dialogue with Iran. Are the Iranian authorities interested in pursuing this dialogue in the current situation?

Human rights issues are regularly on the agenda of high-level bilateral meetings between Switzerland and Iran. Switzerland also has an official human rights dialogue with Iran. The next one is planned for early 2023.

Iran has expressed interest in continuing the human rights dialogue. In the current context, Switzerland believes that it is worthwhile to use all the communication channels at its disposal to make its position and commitment to human rights clear to the Iranian authorities.

Why hasn't Switzerland adopted all the sanctions that the EU has imposed on Iran?

Iran is currently one of the most sanctioned countries on earth. Switzerland has been imposing all UN sanctions and most EU sanctions for years. Some of these sanctions target individuals. Switzerland recently also adopted the EU sanctions related to the delivery of Iranian drones to Russia.

In Switzerland, the EAER is responsible for sanctions policy. When considering whether Switzerland should adopt new sanctions against Iran, all domestic and foreign policy interests are always taken into account, including Switzerland's good offices in Iran. Switzerland wants to keep existing communication channels open, continue the critical dialogue with the Iranian government, and put forward its demands directly with regard to the human rights situation as well as other issues. It believes that this approach is clearly more beneficial than others when it comes to promoting women's rights, human rights and regional stability.

What is the significance of Switzerland's protecting power mandates in Iran?

Switzerland holds a total of five protecting power mandates in connection with Iran, including one that it has held for the US for over 40 years. Through these mandates, Switzerland provides a confidential channel allowing two states that have no diplomatic relations whatsoever to communicate with each other. This can be crucial in preventing an escalation between the countries or in the region. In addition, Switzerland provides consular protection for the sending state's citizens in the receiving state, e.g. for US citizens living in Iran. In doing so, it acts solely on behalf of the state for which it holds the mandate.

The protecting power mandates prove to other countries that they can trust Switzerland. The mandates also grant Switzerland regular access to high-ranking representatives of these countries. Thanks to the existing trust, Swiss diplomats can use this access to other ends, such as raising concerns regarding human rights situations. Due to concerns surrounding confidentiality, Switzerland cannot provide any information on its activities and achievements in connection with its good offices.

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