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Controversial weapons Switzerland completes destruction of its cluster bomb stockpile 

View of a cluster bomb dropped in Syria

An unexploded cluster bomb which landed on a civilian home in rebel-held Douma, Syria, in November 2017

(Keystone / Mohammed Badra)

Switzerland says it has completely destroyed its large cluster munitions stockpile, in line with an international treaty.

Between 1988 and 2004, Switzerland built up a stock of 201,895 cluster munitions, comprising four different types. In accordance with the Convention on Cluster Munitionsexternal link, which the country ratified in July 2012, it committed to destroy this stockpile by the end of 2020.

The last of these projectiles was disposed of last year “in an appropriate and environmentally-friendly manner,” the Federal Department of Defence said in a statement on Tuesdayexternal link

The stockpile, which was destroyed by the German firm Nammo Buck, was the equivalent of about 9,000 tons of ammunition, it added.

Cluster munitions are weapons deployed from the air or launched from the ground that then release hundreds of smaller sub-munitions; however, they are imprecise and unreliable, killing and injuring even after conflicts are over. 

Under the convention, the Swiss defence ministry will keep 50 cluster projectiles for the training of demining and ammunition disposal experts.

The Swiss munitions were originally purchased from Britain and Israel and reassembled in Switzerland, where special features were added to make them more reliable. The stock was considered a last vestige of Switzerland’s defence policy to protect the country during the Cold War, when there were fears of an attack by Warsaw Pact countries.

Cluster bombs continue to kill worldwide. The Cluster Munition Monitor 2018external link identified at least 289 new cluster munition casualties in 2017, although the total was likely to be far higher as many such attacks go unrecorded. Of the total number of casualties worldwide in 2017, 187 were recorded in Syria.

While 120 countries have now signed up to the conventionexternal link and are slowly meeting their treaty obligations, they do not include important players and producers like the United States, China, Russia and Brazil.

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