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Swiss seek ban on security firms providing mercenary service

GENEVA, Oct 12 – Bern sought Wednesday to ban all private security firms used as mercenaries, saying that the move would preserve Swiss neutrality and guarantee the country respected international law.

“The Federal Council wants to ban from Switzerland all companies offering mercenary services,” it said.

“This not only refers to prohibiting the direct participation in hostilities in the context of an armed conflict, but also to prevent private security companies from exercising in a foreign country activities that contravened Swiss interests,” it added.

In a draft law put forward for consultations, the government said it would require security firms to declare all its activities abroad.

They would also be made to adhere to an international code of conduct signed on November 9, 2010 which includes limits on the use of force and an assurance that staff cannot invoke contractual obligations or “superior orders” in a conflict zone to justify crimes, killings, torture, kidnappings, detentions.

The new rule would apply not only to companies which offer security services in Switzerland and abroad but also holding structures of firms that only do their business overseas.

“The future law will contribute to ensuring the internal and external security of Switzerland, and implement the aims of its foreign policy, which is to preserve Swiss neutrality and guarantee the respect of international law,” said the government.

The Swiss government had said it was necessary to regulate private security firm after the arrival of Britain’s Aegis Group Holdings, one of the world’s biggest security firms operating in crisis or conflict zones.

In total, 20 security companies based in eight cantons offer similar services.

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