Swiss Step Up Arms Exports, Peacefully
by Ray Smith
"Tanks to Saudi-Arabia?" Angry protesters outside the Swiss parliament after it took the decision to ease arms exports regulation. Credit: Ray Smith/IPS.
BERN, Switzerland, Mar 13 2014 (IPS) - Switzerland has eased its restrictions on arms exports – in order to save a few thousand workplaces. Critics fear that Switzerland’s credibility as an international peace broker will now suffer.
Switzerland's army doesn't go to war – but its military equipment does. In 2011, Saudi Arabia used Swiss Piranha tanks to crack down on protests in Bahrain. Libyan rebels used Swiss ammunition against Muammar Gaddafi's troops, [refer to Reuters article below on "Libya's Gaddafi urges jihad against Switzerland"] and Syrian rebels have been throwing Swiss hand grenades against President Bashar Assad's soldiers.
Only a few weeks ago, videos circulating on the internet offered proof that Swiss sniper rifles where used against civilians on Kiev's Maidan square. Many died in brutal police action.
"Swiss assault rifles were exported to Ukraine and have now been used against civilians."
Switzerland, a neutral country at the heart of Europe known for an active promotion of a peace policy in diplomatic forums, is in fact the world's fifth-largest producer of small arms. It ranks eighth in arms exports per capita, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).
Last year, 34 percent of exported military equipment consisted of ammunition. Other major exports were fire control systems, weapons and armoured military vehicles. In all 73 percent of military exports went to European countries.
But in 2013, Swiss arms exports dropped from 700 to 461 million Swiss Francs (524 million dollars). The country's three-biggest arms producers, General Dynamics European Land Systems – Mowag, RUAG, [RUAG it is important to point out is owned by Swiss Confederation which is the government of Switzerland] and Rheinmetall Air Defence sacked 415 employees.
The lobby of the 70 Swiss arms producers called for the government to act. It demanded the lifting of export restrictions.
Judging whether or not the Swiss arms industry is on decline depends on how one reads the statistics. Ten years ago, these companies exported less than in 2013 and long-term statistics show that the high export values 2008-2012 were exceptional.
Further, arms exports statistics do not include "special military goods", a category designed for dual use goods. Under this category, Swiss companies last year additionally exported military material worth 405 million Swiss Francs (461 million dollars).
Dismissing the alarming rhetoric of cuts and a crisis by the arms lobby, the Swiss Peace Foundation (SPF) says the sector is "ridiculously insignificant", as it accounts only for 0.33 percent of Swiss exports, and employs less than 10,000 people.
SPF director Heinz Krummenacher told IPS the Swiss arms industry should be dissolved totally or at least produced only for the domestic market.
The Swiss government had tightened export restrictions in 2008. A year later Swiss voters turned down an initiative by the pacifist Group for Switzerland without an Army (GSoA) for a ban of Swiss arms exports. On Mar. 6, the Swiss parliament narrowly gave in to the demands of the arms lobby, and eased arms exports regulation drastically.
Under the former regulation, arms exports to countries known for systematic and grave human rights violations were forbidden. Also, arms exports to countries engaged in an internal or international, armed conflict were not permitted. The new clause will be more elastic.
Now, permits will be denied if there is "a high risk" in the receiving state that the military equipment will be used for serious human rights abuses, if the country is "illegally" engaged in an international, armed conflict or if an internal, armed conflict prevails. The "high risk" provision especially leaves room for manoeuvre.
The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) assesses risks of human rights abuses in potential receiving states and issues export permits. Alain Bovard, arms expert at Amnesty International Switzerland is sceptical about these investigations.
"Over the past few years, we've seen how little they help. Despite thorough investigations, Swiss assault rifles were exported to Ukraine and have now been used against civilians."
In the end, it's all about how specific criteria are checked and assessed. "The human rights criteria hasn’t always been carefully evaluated," Bovard says.
Switzerland has been using post-shipment verification clauses to make sure that delivered military equipment isn’t re-exported by the receiving states. In practice, these clauses have often been ineffective.
Boxes full of Swiss hand grenades, which were found last year in the Syrian civil war, were originally purchased by the United Arab Emirates. In 2011, Swiss ammunition was detected in the hands of Libyan rebels that was originally delivered to Qatar. Both countries signed a non-re-export clause.
"It’s illusive to believe that Swiss authorities are able to control whether exported Swiss weapons and ammunition are used for human rights abuses," Stefan Dietiker, secretary general of GSoA, tells IPS. "Once they've left our country, they're gone, no matter how many clauses the purchasers sign and how many promises they make."
Besides the material consequences of the Swiss parliament's decision to ease its arms exports regulation, critics stress its symbolic effect. "The decision contradicts Switzerland’s foreign policy goals which prioritise protection of human rights," says Amnesty International’s Bovard.
He points to Switzerland's important role in negotiating and pushing the international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). [this role Switzerland has in negotiating for international arms control seems to be a ploy or subterfuge and plausible denial considering Switzerland goes through proxies, e.g., Qatar and UAE, to sell for example RUAG manufactured weapons and ammunition] ATT is a landmark effort to regulate the global arms trade, which more than 100 states signed in 2013. The treaty currently awaits ratification. Switzerland has offered to host the ATT secretariat.
"Switzerland loses credibility," says Alain Bovard. Switzerland, he says, must have stricter arms exports regulation than ATT's minimum standards demand. [so, what can be observed is that Switzerland sells munitions and weapons through international brokers to all sides in conflicts, while at the same time hosts peace talks in Switzerland to find a solution to the fighting in Syria; isn't this just about the most cunning type of diplomacy imaginable? ]
He also worries about the country's reputation. "Having close arms trade ties with countries like Saudi Arabia, which systematically violates human rights, damages Switzerland's image."
Economic Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann insisted through the parliamentary debate that Switzerland would continue to keep up its humanitarian tradition – while not neglecting its security interests. "It's not about surrendering the protection of human rights for the sake of preserving work places," he stressed.
Critics like Stefan Dietiker say Switzerland has to make up its mind. "Ultimately, we have to decide whether we want to deliver weapons or protect human rights."
Libya's Gaddafi urges jihad against Switzerland
Benghazi, Libya - Feb 25, 2010
Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi attends the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Food Security Summit in Rome November 16, 2009.
(Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi called on Thursday for a "jihad" or armed struggle against Switzerland, saying it was an infidel state that was destroying mosques.
"Any Muslim in any part of the world who works with Switzerland is an apostate, [that is almost like an open declaration of religious war on Switzerland] is against (the Prophet) Mohammad, God and the Koran," Gaddafi said during a meeting in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi to mark the Prophet's birthday.
"The masses of Muslims must go to all airports in the Islamic world and prevent any Swiss plane landing, to all harbors and prevent any Swiss ships docking, inspect all shops and markets to stop any Swiss goods being sold," Gaddafi said. [initiating economic warfare caused the destruction of Libya]
The Swiss Foreign Ministry said it had no comment on Gaddafi's remarks.
Libya's relations with Switzerland broke down in 2008 when a son of Gaddafi was arrested in a Geneva hotel and charged with abusing domestic servants.
He was released shortly afterwards and the charges were dropped, but Libya cut oil supplies to Switzerland, withdrew billions of dollars from Swiss bank accounts and arrested two Swiss businessmen working in the North African country.
One has been released but the other was forced this week to leave the Swiss embassy in Tripoli where he had been sheltering and move to a prison to serve a four-month sentence, apparently avoiding a major confrontation.
Libya says the Geneva arrest and the case of the two businessmen are not linked.
"Let us fight against Switzerland, Zionism and foreign aggression," said Gaddafi, adding that "this is not terrorism," in contrast with the work of al Qaeda which he called a "kind of crime and a psychological disease."
"There is a big difference between terrorism and jihad which is a right to armed struggle," he said.
Gaddafi accused Switzerland of being an "infidel, obscene state which is destroying mosques," [there have been an estimated 1,000 mosques now destroyed in an almost four year proxy war against Syria] reference to a Swiss referendum verdict barring construction of minarets.
He called for a "jihad against it with all means."[Muammar Gaddafi was pulled out of a sewer culvert, sexually molested and then executed]
Gaddafi was speaking before leading prayers in a Benghazi square in the presence of envoys from dozens of Muslim countries.
Swiss nationals voted 57.5 percent in favor of the minaret ban in the November 29 referendum backed by the right-wing Swiss People's Party. The federal government had urged voters to reject it, warning it would contravene religious freedom. ["religious freedom" while Switzerland weapons and munitions manufacturer RUAG supplies both sides with munitions and weapons through proxies in the proxy war on Syria with an estimated 1,000 mosques being destroyed to date?]
Note: What provoked these Libyan Islamic fighters to desecrate this Christian Commonwealth Cemetery in Benghazi, Libya? They claim they were reacting to the burning of a copy of the Koran at a NATO camp in Afghanistan. Who or what is behind the instigation of these intentional inflammatory acts to agitate for continued sectarian violence?
Rampage of British World War II cemetery in Benghazi (Libya)
Who are these snipers who were captured in Syria in 2011 in Aleppo after they were spotted firing on Syrians below on the streets from rooftops? Foreign private mercenaries? NATO GLADIO operatives? Are they Syrians who are white? Were they foreign sponsored snipers sent to murder civilians and blame it on the Syrian government. What types of ammunition and sniper rifles were they equipped with?
Snipers in Syria are white Guys
Complete discussion of Switzerland's weapons and munitions manufacturing corporation RUAG relating to the two articles published above.
Swiss Precision Ammo kills US Soldiers & Muslims
by RUAG Corporate Impunity
Ukraine - Government Snipers Shooting protesters in Kiev
Also discussed in the video published above, the Switzerland based RUAG corporation through a subsidiary manufacturer in Florida, supplies police departments and the military in the United States with weapons and ammunition. In the article linked below, Amy Goodman's Democracy Now did a news a special on a program called "kids for cash", which was a "shocking story of how thousands of children in Pennsylvania were jailed by two corrupt judges who received an alleged $2.6 million in kickbacks from the builders and owners of private prison facilities. Is this what America has come to? Apparently so, with children themselves now becoming a marketable product.
Children have now become a marketable product.
Kids For Cash: Inside One of the Nation’s Most Shocking Juvenile Justice Scandals
Switzerland is a war institution creating conflict and killing is its industry.
The Swiss Military Industrial Complex & Kriss
Vector Super V from Switzerland
Swiss Military Power
Shooting with SG 550