Federal Department of Justice and Police

Private security companies operating in conflict regions will not be registered

Press Release, FDJP, 21.05.2008

Bern. Swiss-based private military and security service providers operating in foreign crisis and conflict regions will not be subject to registration or licensing requirements for the time being. So decided the Federal Council on Wednesday on the basis of a report from the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ). The minor importance of the Swiss market and the difficulties of enforcing such legislation militate against the introduction of a statutory framework.

On behalf of the FoJ, the Geneva-based Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) studied the Swiss market and the regulatory systems of a number of different countries with regard to the export of military and security services to crisis and conflict regions. Where the market is concerned, the DCAF concluded that there are at present few, mostly smaller, Swiss-based private security companies operating in crisis regions. In addition, the companies and international organisations surveyed generally preferred to engage local private security firms. In the view of the DCAF it would be possible to set up a separate regulatory system for the export of military and security services to conflict regions, without having to introduce federal-level domestic regulation for the private security sector. An analysis of the legal systems of other countries nonetheless revealed that only very few states have specific export regulations of this kind.

Low risk of incident

Drawing on the DCAF report and its own research, an interdepartmental working group headed by the FoJ concluded that there was no need at present to regulate military and security services that are destined for risk or conflict regions abroad. It estimated the risk of incidents that might have a detrimental effect on the foreign and security policy or the neutrality of our country as low. Furthermore, the effectiveness of any export regulations would rely on tough controls on the activities of the security companies concerned, including those in crisis and conflict regions. In view of the currently minor importance of this sector, the time and resources required for enforcement would be disproportionately high. Finally, comparisons with other systems of law show that, with the exception of the USA and South Africa, no major provider state governs the export of military and security services beyond its existing legislation on arms.

Despite its findings, the working group looked into how the export of private military and security services to crisis and conflict regions might possibly be regulated. It advocates a legislative solution rooted in the Swiss Arms Act, with advance registration of the service provider and a mandatory licence for each individual contract. Registration would be contingent on the security company in question respecting the fundamental principles of Swiss foreign and security policy, being financially stable and guaranteeing that its staff are selected and trained with due care.

Contact / questions
Marc Schinzel, Federal Office of Justice, T +41 31 322 35 41, Contact