Simon Kuersener, 2012


Languages spoken: Swiss German, German, French, English, Italian
Thesis Advisor: Professor Cecile Aptel 

The concept of neutrality today remains important to Switzerland, its government and its people. For many Swiss citizens, neutrality is part of the “Swiss identity.” In one of its recent reports, the Swiss Government defines Swiss foreign policy through its neutrality policy. Is the current Swiss neutrality policy fully congruent with international neutrality law, or has Switzerland’s adherence to neutrality become estranged from the black letter law and simply serves as a convenient buzzword in a non-legal sense? This thesis explores what impact neutrality law has on the government of a neutral state like Switzerland in shaping its neutrality policy.

The purpose of this thesis is to shed light on the question of what can be regarded as the law of neutrality today. Is the internationally codified law regarding neutrality (the Hague Convention V Respecting the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers and Persons in Case of War on Land, concluded on October 28, 1907, and the Hague Convention XIII Concerning the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers in Naval War concluded on October 18, 1907) still relevant today? Or did those two conventions become obsolete with the adoption of the United Nations Charter’s provision on collective security (Chapter VII) and the four Geneva Conventions and its Additional Protocol I?

Has Switzerland significantly contributed to developing what can be regarded as state practice and opinio juris regarding the international law of neutrality? Has the practice of other states contributed to the notion of neutrality?


Simon Kuersener is from Bern, Switzerland. After having lived outside his home country on several occasions during his childhood (London, UK, Washington, D.C., and, yes, Kansas City, KS), he studied International and European Law at the Universities of Bern and Paris, France. His interest in Foreign Affairs and International Law was fostered by a student job as minute taker of the Swiss Parliament’s Committee on Finance and its sub-committee on the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. In addition to his academic work, he had the privilege to participate in nine international sessions of the European Youth Parliament and to act as president of the last one. Since graduating from Law School in 2007, he has worked for the Swiss Embassy in Canberra, Australia, and most recently as a lawyer for the Department of Economics in Switzerland. As a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Bern, he is currently working on a dissertation in International Human Rights Law, and has been extremely interested in Fletcher’s classes in that field. In his free time, he enjoys travelling, catching up with friends, cooking, running, and watching NHL hockey.