Swiss private security industry is booming abroad

Over half of the reported missions involved personal security and the guarding of goods and properties “within a complex environment”, the report said. Keystone

Swiss private security firms carried out 450 missions abroad in 2017 – a third more than in the previous year, announced the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) on Wednesday.

This content was published on April 11, 2018 - 15:13

Since the Federal Act on Private Security Services Provided AbroadExternal link was introduced in 2015, all Swiss security companies are obliged to report their operations abroad to the Swiss authorities. Last year, 450 such reports were received by the government – 114 more than in 2016.

Over half of the reported missions involved personal security and the guarding of goods and properties “within a complex environment”, according to the FDFA’s annual reportExternal link. Activities of this kind saw the biggest increase last year – 279 such missions were carried out, compared to 114 in 2016.

The two other most important sectors of the industry were private intelligence activities (109 registered operations) and so-called “operational or logistical support for armed or security forces” (50 registered operations).

The latter includes operation and maintenance of weapons systems as well as consulting and training. The demand for both these types of operations remained stable compared to the previous year, according to the report. 

+ Mercenary services outlawed by parliament

Rights concerns

Two private security operations in the Middle East involving support for armed forces were prohibited by the authorities: one because of fears it could have enabled human rights abuses; the other because of FDFA concerns for “regional stability”. Over half of all security missions were carried out in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Some 18 examination procedures into planned operations were also initiated – three times more than in the previous year.

In these cases, there were indications that “the planned activities could come into conflict with the law”, the FDFA wrote. In 13 cases, potential suspicions could not be verified and in three instances, the relevant companies dropped the intended activity after the inspection.  

No unlawful activities of Swiss companies, such as their direct participation in conflict abroad or security services involving serious human rights abuses, occurred last year, according to the authorities. There was also an “increasing recognition” of the importance of the government’s control mechanism.

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