Switzerland – Security Sector

2 National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights 2020-23

2.1 Pillar 1: state duty to protect


Guiding Principles 1 to 3

2.1.2 Operational principles: legislative and information policy measures

Measure 1: Rules on the export of war material and technologies for internet surveillance

The manufacture, brokerage, export and transit of war material for recipients abroad will be authorised if this is not contrary to international law, international obligations and the principles of Swiss foreign policy. The decision on whether or not to issue authorisation for a foreign transaction must abide by the criteria laid down in the War Material Ordinance. Among the domestic factors that inform this decision is whether the country of destination respects human rights. If the country of destination violates human rights in a systematic and serious manner, it is imperative that the export licence be denied. However, authorisation might still be granted in exceptional cases if there is a low risk that the exported war material will be used to commit serious violations of human rights.

Technologies for internet and mobile communication surveillance (goods, technology and software) can be used for both civilian and military purposes, i.e. they are dual-use goods. As such, they can be an element in state repression, thereby exposing the business enterprises that manufacture or trade in them to an increased risk of becoming involved in human rights abuses. The export or brokerage of technologies for internet and mobile communication surveillance is governed by the Ordonnance sur l’exportation et le courtage de biens destinés à la surveillance d’Internet et des communications mobiles (Ordinance on the export and brokerage of technologies for internet and mobile communications surveillance). A licence to export or to broker such goods must be refused if there is reason to believe that the exported or brokered good will be used by the final recipient as a means of repression.

Objective Indicator Responsibility
Implement legal provisions on the transfer of controlled goods with a view to ensuring that international law and, in particular, human rights are respected.

Report on Federal Council activities to the parliamentary Control Committees detailing exports of war material, and the foreign economic policy report that includes an appendix listing all goods exported under the Goods Control Act.

EAER [Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research]


Measure 2: Security and human rights

Private security service providers are at increased risk of becoming involved in human rights abuses. The federal government should ensure that business enterprises which are subject to the Federal Act on Private Security Services Provided Abroad (PSSA) meet their human rights obligations. The PSSA prohibits security firms based in Switzerland from participating directly in hostilities in the context of an armed conflict, and from engaging in activities that could facilitate human rights abuses. In addition, it requires Swiss-based providers to become signatories to the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers (ICoC). Switzerland also helped to establish the International Code of Conduct Association, which requires private security providers to uphold human rights standards. The ICoC Association has a grievance procedure to address claims brought by employees or third parties regarding human rights abuses by companies. It has also produced guidance for private security providers on setting up complaints-handling schemes within their organisation, as well as guidelines on preventing sexual exploitation and abuse. Other multi-stakeholder initiatives are exploring similar mechanisms for victims of business-related human rights abuses.

Switzerland and the ICRC were the driving force behind the Montreux Document on private military and security companies. The purpose of the intergovernmental document is to promote respect for international humanitarian law and human rights by private military and security companies (PMSCs) operating in situations of armed conflict.

Switzerland is a member of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights initiative and contributes to its development. This initiative is targeted at companies in the extractive sector and offers them guidance on maintaining the safety and security of their operations within a framework that ensures respect for human rights, especially when private and/or public security providers are also involved. Switzerland is an active member of the Steering Committee and assumes the chair on a rotating basis. It is also committed to the application of the Voluntary Principles in the field and works to expand membership of the initiative.

Objective Indicator Responsibility
Ensure that business enterprises subject to the Federal Act on Private Security Services Provided Abroad uphold their human rights obligations. Annual Federal Council reports on implementation of the Federal Act on Private Security Services Provided Abroad.

Concrete examples of initiatives to promote the protection of human rights by private security providers.

FDFA [Federal Department of Foreign Affairs],


Measure 5: Multi-stakeholder initiatives on business and human rights

Many multi-stakeholder initiatives on business and human rights are already under way. The federal government plays an active and major part in several of them, such as the ICoC Association and the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.