The Swiss policy of arms control and disarmament pursues the objective of preserving national and international security while minimizing the level of arms held throughout the world. Switzerland consistently supports non-proliferation and disarmament at international level, particularly where weapons of mass destruction are concerned.
Swiss security policy pursues the reinforcement of mutual trust among states. To this end Switzerland supports verifiable arms-control and disarmament mechanisms that do not discriminate against individual states or other entities. Switzerland considers it a fundamental principle that binding, universal agreements under international law take precedence over unilateral measures and arrangements that are only binding in political terms. Switzerland signed and ratified all the multilateral disarmament agreements that are open to it.
The Federal Department for Foreign Affairs (FDFA) also implements international disarmament projects itself. One example is its contribution to the destruction of chemical weapons in Russia as part of the G8 Global Partnership against the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
The possible use of atomic, biological, chemical or radiological weapons (ABC weapons) constitutes a threat to international security – all the more so because terrorist groups could obtain access to them. Switzerland seeks the comprehensive, worldwide elimination of all ABC weapons. It has ratified all the international treaties on the subject, and it seeks to make them universally valid and to close any loopholes they may contain. Switzerland also supports international preventive measures (export controls), which are not binding in terms of international law.
The 2017 Report of the Federal Council on Switzerland’s arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation policy provides an overview of Switzerland’s efforts and activities in these areas since the last report was published in 2012. The Federal Council presents information on the objectives, priorities and outlook of its arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation policy – to the Swiss Parliament once during each legislative period, a practice that dates back to 1996. Since 2002, the report has been prepared in compliance with postulate 02.3541 ('Disarmament report').
Switzerland actively supports banning and eliminating all categories of weapons of mass destruction as they represent a serious threat to both international security and the general population. Switzerland strives to preserve the existing norms in this area and to protect them from dilution. Moreover, in addition to promoting disarmament efforts, it also seeks to combat the dangers of proliferation.
Over time, a prohibition norm could exercise legal and political pressure on the legitimacy of possessing and using nuclear weapons and ultimately reduce the role of nuclear weapons in security concepts. A ban on nuclear weapons could underscore the fact that, for humanitarian reasons and under international law, a majority of states do not believe that nuclear weapons should ever be used. Over and above that, a prohibition norm could strengthen the non-proliferation norm enshrined in the NPT in a similar way to the already existing nuclear-weapon free zones.
Switzerland believes the negative aspects of such a treaty are to be avoided. The negotiations on a ban on nuclear weapons could accentuate the existing divisions regarding this issue even further. Rather than having a concrete impact on disarmament, any treaty that does not involve the possessors of nuclear weapons and their allies could remain largely declaratory in nature, effectively diminishing the added value of the prohibition process, as the non-nuclear-weapon states are already legally subject to a prohibition on development and possession by virtue of the NPT.
Switzerland condemned the repeated use of chemical weapons in Syria in the strongest terms. If the credibility of the international norm against chemical weapons is to be upheld, Switzerland considers it essential that such acts are neither tolerated nor left unanswered. To counter the impunity, Switzerland had been calling on the Security Council since 2013 to refer this and other serious breaches of international humanitarian law to the International Criminal Court. Moreover, through its Spiez Laboratory, which analysed samples from the initial sarin attacks as well as the OPCW missions and the JIM, Switzerland was actively involved in investigating these incidents and provided support for the destruction of the Syrian chemical programme as well as for various UN and OPCW missions to Syria in the form of funding, material and personnel.
In Switzerland, the prohibition of investment in “prohibited war materials” is codified in the War Material Act. “War materials” are defined as weapons, weapons systems, munitions, and military explosives, as well as dual-use equipment. The annex to the War Material Ordinance contains a list of materials designated as war materials by the Federal Council, the Swiss government. “Prohibited war materials” are nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, anti- personnel mines, and cluster munitions.
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