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Direct democracy New bid to stop relaxation of Swiss arms exports

weapons training close up of hand with gun

The issue of Swiss-produced war materiels and exports has been in the spotlight in Switzerland in recent months.

(Keystone)

A Swiss group wants to launch a people’s initiative to stop the government from relaxing arms export rules to conflict-ridden states.

Zurich-based NGO Campaxexternal link says it is spearheading a campaign in the hope of getting the Swiss authorities to change course as the Federal Council has “apparently lost its moral compass”.

The group made the launch of the initiative dependent on the government and parliament changing their policy and on the support of at least 25,000 supporters pledging to help collect a handful of signatures each.

The nascent Alliance against Arms Exports to Civil War Countries wants to prevent arms supplies to countries involved in "internal armed conflicts" and those that seriously and systematically violate human rights.

The group says Switzerland’s political leadership and arms industry is “neither interested in our humanitarian tradition nor in the widespread discomfort among the population when Swiss weapons fall into the hands of dictators and terrorists”.

It was referring to recent media reports claiming Swiss-made weapons had fallen into the hands of Islamic State group militants in Syria and were being bought on Facebook by Libyan militants. A report by the Federal Audit Office published this month showed weapons exports regulations are easy to bypass and Swiss authorities approve almost all export requests for war materiel.

+ Uncensored report on arms exports reveals shortcomings

“Arms exports should no longer be allowed to be approved over the heads of the population and parliament,” they said in a statement on Monday. 

“Foreign policy is central to our understanding of ourselves as a nation within the international community. We want to decide for ourselves whether we want to fuel armed conflicts with arms supplies or whether we want to seek diplomatic solutions.”

Ultimately, the group would need to collect at least 100,000 signatures within 18 months to trigger a vote on the issue.

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