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Minister backs conduct rules for private armies

The Swiss foreign minister has called for an international code of conduct to govern private security firms that go into war zones.

This content was published on August 22, 2010 - 12:45

In an interview in the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper, Micheline Calmy-Rey said private armies and security firms should respect international humanitarian law and be accountable during conflicts.

The issue has been subject to debate in Switzerland following the recent relocation to Basel of the headquarters of the British firm Aegis Defence Services. There are currently no Swiss laws governing the activities of such firms.

Calmy-Rey said homicide, except in cases of legitimate defence, torture and human trafficking should be forbidden by contract soldiers.

“The goal would be that this code of conduct even changes the practices of firms,” she noted.

The customers of such private security firms, which include countries and humanitarian organisations, should also integrate the code into their contracts. Umbrella business organisations have backed such a code, she added.

Switzerland helped develop in 2006 an initiative leading to the Montreux Document, the first international document to describe international law in relation to the activities of private military and security companies.

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