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Transparency tussle Arms exports to 21 countries rejected by Swiss officials

ammunition

In 2017, Switzerland exported war materiel worth CHF446.6 million ($477 million) to 64 countries

(Keystone)

In 2017, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) rejected 48 export applications for war materiel. The exports were destined for 21 countries, including Turkey, Mexico, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. 

A spokesperson for the Federal Department of Economic Affairs confirmed the figures, published in the SonntagsZeitung and Le Matin Dimanche papers on Sunday. 

Swiss companies wanted to export armoured vehicles and munitions to Turkey and large calibre ammunition to the United Arab Emirates. SECO's veto also included mortar ammunition destined for Kuwait and the shipment of assault rifles, grenades and small arms ammunition to Mexico, besides spare parts and accessories for assault rifles to Saudi Arabia. 

More transparency 

SECO has often been reluctant to communicate details about arms export applications, but the Federal Administrative Court recently urged it to be more transparent. In a ruling released on Friday, the court ruled in favour of a journalist working for the German-language weekly WOZ. The journalist had requested detailed information on applications for export of war materiel for the year 2014 under the law on transparency in state administration. 

SECO refused to release the information for reasons of economic and diplomatic prudence: revealing the names of destination countries could lead to bilateral tensions and the possible future scuppering of deals, it said. 

However, the court ruled, such information has a high public interest, dealing as it does with an issue that is much debated among the public and civil society; moreover, the media is vital in overseeing the activities of state authorities.

Before releasing the information, SECO will now consult with the companies concerned to determine whether and which names and details will be made anonymous. It also has 30 days to appeal the verdict to the Federal Court.

Last year, SECO recently announced, Switzerland delivered war materiel worth CHF446.6 million ($477 million) to 64 countries, an increase of 8% on 2016.


SDA-ATS/ac

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