Swiss hand grenades in Syria: Conclusion of investigation and measures
Bern, 21.09.2012 - Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have concluded the investigation into the hand grenades from Switzerland which found their way into Syria. The Federal Department of Economic Affairs (FDEA) has subsequently tightened its controls regarding the export of war materiel to the UAE and, with the support of other government departments, will review earlier war materiel exports to various countries. Furthermore, the Federal Council has today asked the FDEA, together with the FDFA, to draw up an amendment to the War Materiel Ordinance with regard to non-re-export declarations. The Federal Council has also decided that the temporarily suspended application procedures for licences to export war materiel to the UAE can be resumed.
At the beginning of July, Swiss media outlets reported that hand grenades manufactured in Switzerland had been found in Syria. Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) subsequently set up a joint investigation commission to clarify the matter. The investigations revealed that Swiss hand grenades supplied to the UAE in 2003/2004 had found their way to Syria. The UAE had given part of the shipment of hand grenades to Jordan in 2004 on the grounds that it wished to support Jordan in the fight against terrorism. From there the hand grenades evidently made their way to Syria. This case therefore occurred prior to the introduction of stricter rules regarding non re-export declarations ordered by the Federal Council in 2006. Since 2006, non-re-export declarations have explicitly prohibited transfers in the form of gifts, loans or the like.
The UAE assured Switzerland in writing that apart from the hand grenades, no other war materiel imported from Switzerland has been re-exported.
In order to prevent the re-export of Swiss war materiel exports more effectively than to date, the FDEA and the Federal Council will introduce the following additional measures:
- New applications for licences to export war materiel to the UAE must contain a non-re-export declaration, which grants Switzerland the right to conduct an on-site post-shipment inspection of the exported war materiel. Non re-export declarations must also be signed by a high-level government authority. In important cases the legally binding nature of the non-re-export declaration should be reiterated in a diplomatic note
- The relevant agency within the FDEA, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) will, with the support of further government departments, conduct a review (post-shipment inspection) in the coming months of previous war materiel exports to various countries. The FDEA will inform the Federal Council of the results in due course
- The Federal Council has asked the FDEA, in cooperation with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), to draw up an amendment to the War Materiel Ordinance. The stricter rules regarding non-re-export declarations, which the Federal Council introduced in 2006, will therefore be codified in the ordinance.
In view of these measures, which take immediate effect, the Federal Council has decided that the temporarily suspended application procedures for licences to export war materiel to the UAE can be resumed.
The Federal Council will provide a statement to the Control Committee of the National Council in the near future informing it of the details of the clarifications concerning the hand grenades from Switzerland which made their way to Syria and the measures taken.
Switzerland has been extremely cautious in authorising war materiel shipments to North Africa and states in the Middle East in recent times, in terms of both the size of shipments and the types of weaponry concerned (e.g. distinction between offensive and defensive weapons). This practice will continue.
Address for enquiries
Rudolf Christen, Head FDEA Information Service
Tel. 031 322 39 60 / 079 317 24 09
Head, Export Controls and Sanctions,
Tel. 031 322 23 46
Last modification 12.02.2020
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