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Switzerland cited for small arms exports to Sudan

A million people have fled the conflict in the Darfur region Keystone

Switzerland exported small arms valued at $4.3 million (SFr5.3 million) to war-torn Sudan in 2002, according to a report presented to the United Nations.

The report, from Geneva’s Institute of International Studies, claims that Switzerland was the second-largest supplier of such weapons after Iran.

The Small Arms Survey 2004 describes the deliveries from Switzerland as “military weapons”.

Swiss legislation forbids the export of war materiel to countries at war or to conflict areas.

But an official in Bern said the figures were either false or referred to arms exported illegally.

Complete surprise

They came as a complete surprise to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco).

The head of Seco’s export controls and sanctions, Othmar Wyss, said on Saturday that the figures had apparently been supplied by the Sudanese government.

“Either these figures are incorrect, or these are weapons exported illegally,” he said.

One of the authors of the study confirmed to Swiss-German television that the figures were taken from import statistics from Khartoum.

In Seco’s statistics for 2002, arms exports to Sudan totalled just SFr4,100.

Co-financed by Switzerland, the Small Arms Survey 2004 was presented to the UN in New York on Wednesday.

The report, which is based on the latest available data, does not state who the customer of the Swiss weapons was or which company supplied them.

Average marks

The study gives Switzerland only average marks when it comes to transparency of its weapons trade.

On a scale of 20, Switzerland scores nine points, coming 13th in a list of 27 countries.

The survey comments that countries that trade in small arms bear the responsibility for controlling the proliferation and misuse of them.

But it finds that many governments are reluctant to release their arms trade data, let alone confront the consequences of their transfers.

In its more than 300 pages, the report lists “known supplies of small arms to states in which obvious violations of human rights have been noted”.

In 2000 and 2002, Switzerland is also cited as exporting such arms to Indonesia, Pakistan and the former Yugoslavia.

Calmy-Rey visit

Publication of the figures comes only days after Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey returned from a visit to Sudan.

She described the humanitarian situation in the Darfur region in the west of the country as “shocking” and called for a political solution to the crisis.

Civil war in Sudan has been raging since 1983 between the Muslim-backed government in Khartoum and militants in the Christian south. About two million people have died in the conflict.

Fighting in the Darfur region, which flared up last year, has killed more than 10,000 people, with a million others displaced. About 200,000 people have fled to neighbouring Chad.

Among the peace initiatives for Sudan, Switzerland hosted a conference in 2002 at the Bürgenstock resort above Lake Lucerne.

A ceasefire agreement covering the Nuba mountains was signed there between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.

At a meeting in Geneva in early June, Calmy-Rey pledged SFr10 million from Switzerland to support humanitarian aid programmes in the Darfur region.

swissinfo with agencies

Swiss law forbids the export of weapons to countries at war or to areas of conflict.
The Small Arms Survey is an independent research project located at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva.
It serves as the principal international source of public information on all aspects of small arms.

A report claims Switzerland sold small arms valued at SFr4.3 million to war-torn Sudan in 2002.

It describes them as “military weapons”.

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs has expressed surprise at the survey’s figures, saying they are false or refer to weapons exported without permission.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR