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Back to Laws Prohibiting Investments in Controversial Weapons

I. Legal Framework

In Switzerland, the prohibition of investment in “prohibited war materials” is codified in the War Material Act.[1] “War materials” are defined as weapons, weapons systems, munitions, and military explosives, as well as dual-use equipment.[2] The annex to the War Material Ordinance contains a list of materials designated as war materials by the Federal Council, the Swiss government.[3] “Prohibited war materials” are nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, anti-personnel mines, and cluster munitions.[4]

The Act prohibits the direct financing of the development, manufacture, or acquisition of prohibited war material as well as the indirect financing if the indirect financing is used to circumvent the prohibition on direct financing.[5] “Direct financing” is defined as the “direct granting of credits, loans or gifts, or comparable financial advantages.”[6] The participation in companies that develop, manufacture, or acquire prohibited war material or the acquisition of debt securities or other investment products issued by such companies qualifies as “indirect financing.”[7] The prohibitions on direct and indirect financing are criminal law norms and therefore require intent to be fulfilled.[8] Only direct intent is relevant; merely accepting the possibility of violating the prohibitions on financing under articles 8b or 8c is not enough.[9]

Anyone who intentionally violates the prohibition of financing and cannot claim an exemption is liable to a custodial sentence not exceeding five years or to a monetary penalty.[10]

The law is overseen by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Staatssekretariat für Wirtschaft, SECO), which forms part of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research.[11]  No governmental lists could be located that provide for covered companies.

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II. Deterrent Effect of the Law

The prohibitions on direct and indirect financing entered into force on February 1, 2013.[12] The nongovernmental organization Business and Human Rights Conform (BHRC) stated in a 2015 report that investments by Swiss financial institutions in nuclear-weapon-producing companies have not declined since the amendment entered into force, but have actually increased.[13]

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Prepared by Jenny Gesley
Foreign Law Specialist
November 2016


[1] Bundesgesetz über das Kriegsmaterial (Kriegsmaterialgesetz, KMG) [War Material Act], Dec. 13, 1996, SYSTEMATISCHE RECHTSSAMMLUNG [SR] [SYSTEMATIC COLLECTION OF LAWS] 514.51, https://www.admin.ch/opc/de/classified-compilation/19960753/201302010000/514.51.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/2E49-3K33, unofficial English translation available at https://www.admin.ch/opc/en/classified-compilation/19960753/201302010000/514.51.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/G49X-BDXT.

[2] Id. art. 5, para. 1.

[3] Verordnung über das Kriegsmaterial (Kriegsmaterialverordnung, KMV) [War Material Ordinance], SR 514.511, https://www.admin.ch/opc/de/classified-compilation/19980112/201510010000/514.511.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/5H2J-2J57, unofficial English translation available at https://www.admin.ch/opc/en/classified-compilation/19980112/201510010000/514.511.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/GMT2-A3TU.

[4] War Materials Act arts. 7, 8, 8a.

[5] Id. arts. 8b, 8c.

[6]  Id. art. 8b, para. 2.

[7] Id. art. 8c, para. 2.

[8]  Id. art. 35b.

[9]  Id. art. 35b, para. 3.

[10] Id. art. 35b, para. 1.

[11] War Materials Ordinance art. 13.

[12] Bundesgesetz über das Kriegsmaterial (Kriegsmaterialgesetz, KMG). Änderung vom 16. März 2012 [War Materials Act. Amendment of March 16, 2012], AMTLICHE SAMMLUNG DES BUNDESRECHTS [AS] [OFFICIAL COMPILATION OF FEDERAL LAWS] 295, 299 (2013), No. III, https://www.admin.ch/opc/de/official-compilation/2013/295.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/67DW-AR6G.

[13] BHRC, DAS SCHWEIZERISCHE FINANZIERUNGSVERBOT VON KERNWAFFEN IM KMG [THE SWISS PROHIBITION ON THE FINANCING OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS IN THE WAR MATERIAL ACT] 4 (Nov. 2015), http://bhrc.ch/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Publikation_BHRC_2015_final.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/743D-49H8.

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Last Updated: 10/02/2017