+   *    +     +     
About Us 
The Issues 
Our Research Products 
Order Publications 
Press Room 
Resources for Monitor Researchers 
Table of Contents
Country Reports
SWITZERLAND, Landmine Monitor Report 2000
LM Report 2000 Full Report   Executive Summary   Key Findings   Key Developments   Translated Country Reports


Key developments since March 1999: Switzerland has served as co-chair of the SCE on Victim Assistance. Switzerland will host the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in September 2000. In 1999 Switzerland provided US$5.8 million for mine action programs.

Mine Ban Policy

Switzerland signed the Mine Ban Treaty (MBT) on 3 December 1997 and ratified it on 24 March 1998. Before this, national legislation banning antipersonnel landmines (AP mines) had already been enacted by the Swiss Parliament on 13 December 1996, which entered into force on 1 April 1998.[1] This national legislation concerns war material in general. One of the sections specific to AP mines imposes penal sanctions (maximum imprisonment of ten years for intentional violations, maximum imprisonment of one year or a fine of SF 500,000/US$290,000 for negligent violations).[2] The section dealing with AP mines is broader than the Mine Ban Treaty in that it also bans devices adapted to function as AP mines.[3] However, the Swiss Campaign to Ban Landmines (Swiss CBL) remains concerned about two aspects of the national law that are weaker than the MBT(see below) .

Switzerland submitted its initial report required under Article 7 of the Treaty to the United Nations on time on 4 August 1999, covering the period 1 March 1999 to 20 August 1999. The report is brief, since Switzerland is not mine-affected, had already destroyed its entire stock of AP mines, had no production facilities, and is retaining no mines for training purposes. On 11 April 2000 Switzerland submitted its second annual report, covering calendar year 1999, that simply indicated there were no changes in information from the first report.

Switzerland took part in the First Meeting of States Parties (FMSP) of the MBT in Maputo, Mozambique, in May 1999. The Swiss representatives expressed the willingness of the government to host the Second Meeting in September 2000 and also highlighted the work of the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining. The GICHD provides a computer network linking mine clearance centers, provides a venue for the UN’s annual meetings on this activity, and serves as an institution for the study of and training in mine clearance. Since the FMSP in Maputo, the GICHD has also hosted the meetings of the Standing Committees of Experts (SCEs), that are charged with facilitating the implementation of the MBT.

Switzerland has co-chaired (with Mexico) the SCE on Victim Assistance, Socio-economic Reintegration and Mine Awareness, that met in September 1999 and March 2000. It has also been very active in other SCE meetings. At the first SCE meeting on General Status and Operation of the Convention, held in January 2000, Switzerland was one of the governments that reiterated that antivehicle mines with antihandling devices which function like AP mines, which may explode from an unintentional act of a person, are banned under the MBT.[4]

Switzerland is not a member of the United Nations, and therefore never appears in the list of signatories of UN resolutions. However the Swiss delegation stated at the FMSP in Maputo that the UN offers the most effective means of executing mine action.

After the NATO intervention in Kosovo in early 1999, the Swiss CBL asked for the government’s views on the fact the United States had reserved the right of to use antipersonnel mines, despite the fact that all the other members of NATO had signed the MBT except for Turkey. The official response was that such questions were not relevant, since Switzerland is not a member of any military alliance and allows no foreign military bases on her territory.[5]

The Swiss authorities have welcomed the Landmine Monitor and the initiatives on transparency regarding the implementation of the Treaty. However, in response to the Landmine Monitor Report 1999, Switzerland indicated that it believes “the report makes it difficult to distinguish factual information provided by the governments of the Member states from the evaluations of the authors.” The government notes that some member states might feel wrongly discredited and some non-signatory states might be dissuaded from joining the MBT.[6]

Switzerland is a party to Amended Protocol II of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW). Its annual report was submitted to the First Conference of States Parties to Amended Protocol II in December 1999 as required, and at that meeting Switzerland intervened to request that signatory countries’ reports become public, as are those of the MBT.[7]

Regarding the Conference on Disarmament (CD), Switzerland supports the principle of negotiating a ban on mine transfers in the CD, provided that this does not endanger the implementation or universality of the Mine Ban Treaty.[8] The Swiss view of the primacy of the MBT has been stated in clear terms: “Switzerland is ready to discuss ways towards solving the problems caused by anti-personnel mines in any appropriate forum. However, it would oppose the creation of new international norms short of or contradicting the prohibitions ands obligations imposed by the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction.” [9]

Swiss Campaign to Ban Landmines

In March 2000, the Swiss CBL, in cooperation with a number of other national landmine campaigns, hosted a conference to begin a dialogue seeking to engage armed non-state actors (NSA) in the landmine ban.[10] The first conference of its kind, attended by representatives of armed opposition groups, government observers and ban campaigners, it was an important step toward consistent work in this area of critical importance to banning AP mines. The objectives of this conference were to provide education about the problem of mines used by NSAs, to increase understanding of how an antipersonnel mine ban can be achieved among NSAs, and to build confidence in and strengthen the ICBL initiative to engage NSAs in a ban on mines.

During the conference it was noted how crucial rebel participation is in mine-clearing operations, from identifying mined areas to the actual removal or destruction of mines. Legal experts explored the introduction of innovations to international humanitarian and human rights law, that would allow armed non-state actors to obligate themselves to a ban. Geneva Call, a Swiss-registered international NGO, was put forward by anti-landmine campaigns from several countries to receive such ban commitments from NSAs, and serve as a basis for holding armed groups accountable.[11]

The Swiss CBL has expressed concerns about two aspects of the national mine ban law. First, the national law does not reflect the definition of an antihandling device in the MBT. The Mine Ban Treaty defines antihandling devices as those that activate when “an attempt is made to tamper with or otherwise intentionally disturb the mine,” thus devices that may be activated by an unintentional act of a person are considered to be AP mines and thus banned by the MBT. [12] As noted above, Swiss officials have recently reiterated that this is the Swiss understanding. Moreover, inquiries by the Swiss CBL have established that the antihandling devices on antitank mines currently stocked by Switzerland do conform to the MBT. Despite this, and the fact that international treaties prevail over national law, the Swiss CBL expects the authorities to specify in the national law what types of antihandling devices are and are not permitted.

Secondly, the Swiss law reserves the right to use antipersonnel mines “as a protection or in order to fight their effects.”[13] The need to use mines for training dogs in mine detection is given as an example of what this is intended to permit.[14] However the Swiss Campaign considers this exemption to be so general as to allow its misuse, along the lines of “if the enemy uses mines, then I am allowed to use them so as to ensure my protection.” The Swiss CBL considers that the national law should be amended in this respect also and have the same definition as the Mine Ban Treaty. The MBT allows antipersonnel mines to be retained only for the development of and training in mine detection, mine clearance, or mine destruction techniques.[15]

Production and Transfer

Switzerland produced bounding mines (type 64) and stake mines (type 49) at a government controlled facility from 1967 to 1969; other past production details are noted in the Landmine Monitor Report 1999.[16]

The legal sanctions against production of mine components are described in the Landmine Monitor Report 1999 (see p. 669). The Swiss CBL has identified a company that previously produced detonators for mines and is now producing detonators for air bags.[17] In case these detonators could be used in the manufacture of antipersonnel mines, the Swiss CBL wrote asking whether the company was keeping a watch on its exports, and would research into modifying the detonators in order to prevent any possible use in the manufacture of mines. The company replied that exports were watched but that it is impossible to use the detonators for mines.[18]

Switzerland does not produce antitank mines equipped with antihandling devices and has no research programs on these weapons. There was research into alternatives to antipersonnel mines, in the form of video monitors and various technical sensors, but this has ceased for lack of worthwhile result.[19]

The export of antipersonnel landmines and components was restricted in 1994 to other CCW signatories, then banned completely in December 1996. However, the export of explosives does not require export authorization and does not appear to be affected by the MBT as implemented in Switzerland by the 1996 law. Imports of various AP mines were recorded up to 1965, as detailed in Landmine Monitor Report 1999 (see p. 670).

Transit of AP mines through Switzerland is forbidden for any purpose, including by any peacekeeping forces and the UN.


Switzerland’s Article 7 report indicates that destruction of stockpiled AP mines began following a 25 November 1995 decision of the Minister of Defense, and that destruction was completed by 15 March 1999. [20] It noted that 212 type Tretmine 59 antipersonnel mines were destroyed in March 1999, by demolition charges at the Weapon Systems and Ammunition Test Centre of the Defence Procurement Agency. The government had stated previously that all stocks of AP mines were destroyed by the end of 1997.[21] In response to the Swiss CBL’s questions, the authorities explained that these mines had been forgotten in a warehouse.

The total number of AP mines destroyed from stockpiles is not provided in the Article 7 report. However, at the December 1999 meeting of the SCE on Stockpile Destruction, a Swiss representative cited a figure of 3.85 million. He noted the work was done by government-owned factories and one private firm.[22]

Despite a request by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the Swiss government has not included in its Article 7 reports any information about Claymore-type mines.[23] When these directional fragmentation mines are victim-activated by tripwire, they are prohibited by the treaty; when command-detonated by the user, they are permissible. The Department for Defence takes the position that Claymores are no longer to be considered as antipersonnel mines because they have been altered to prevent activation by tripwire. They are deemed essential for the military security of the country.[24]

The Swiss CBL has confidence that these mines have indeed been adapted for command-detonation only and that operational policy in Switzerland reflects this. Nevertheless, the Swiss Campaign has called for a ban on Claymore mines, due to its concern that if Claymores continue to be used in any form there is a possibility that they will be used illegally. The Swiss CBL has provided the government with two legal opinions on the legality of Claymore mines under Swiss law, and is awaiting a response.

The Swiss government acknowledges owning antivehicle mines fitted with antihandling devices (which may be the type VM88 imported from Austria from Thomson Brandt Armament between 1991 and 1994, worth US$ 225 million),[25] and antitank mines dating from the sixties that are not fitted with antihandling devices.[26] The Swiss authorities explain that, because three factors must be simultaneously combined in order to make antivehicle mines fitted with antihandling devices explode, theoretically they entail no risk for civilians. Also, antivehicle mines held by Switzerland are said to meet criteria set out by the ICRC: they are detectable, require 150 kg minimum pressure for detonation, and will not explode if unintentionally disturbed.[27]

Mine Action Funding

In 1999 Switzerland provided US$5.8 million of support for mine action programs: $2.65 million for humanitarian mine clearance, $1.3 million for victim assistance, $300,000 to help increase local capacity for mine action, and $1.55 million for various projects including the GICHD, strengthening the UN, supporting nongovernmental organizations and sponsoring delegates from mine-affected countries to attend the FMSP in Maputo, Mozambique.

Funds donated to mine clearance include $1.1 million for Kosovo (involving projects carried out by Handicap International, Halo Trust and the Mine Action Center), $1.2 million for Bosnia (Handicap International, Norwegian People’s Aid, and the International War Crimes Court, to demine a mass grave), $140,000 for Croatia (Swiss Federation for Humanitarian Demining) and $180,000 for Mozambique (Halo Trust and others).

Mine action policy is based on Switzerland’s principle of peace promotion. The most significant aspects of this guiding principle are: good knowledge of the situation in the country concerned, appropriate choice of experienced partners, integration of all stakeholders in both project design and implementation, strengthening of local capacity, consideration of related security, political and trade issues (with regard to the recipient country and Switzerland), and coordination between donors and implementing agencies.

Applied to mine-related activities, these criteria favor the selection of: the most mine-affected regions in the world and those engaged in reconstruction and reconciliation; links between mine clearance projects with peace-promotion initiatives; selection of mine clearance sites in participation with local governments, local communities, the UN, Swiss embassies and bureaus of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, other donors and experienced international NGOs; the importance of local capacity building; assessment of needs and impact on mine action programs. Coordination is provided by the Department for Foreign Affairs.

The Swiss government is not involved in and does not support any research program for mine clearance technologies; neither does it train bomb-disposal experts.

Several NGOs within the Swiss CBL support mine clearance and victim assistance programs: Co-operaid and Swiss Protestant Mutual Aid have programs in Cambodia, Handicap International in various countries and the Swiss Foundation For Landmine Victims Aid in Pakistan. In 1999 the Fondation Pro-Victimis provided financial support to the Halo Trust for mine clearance in Abkhazia ($407,000), in Upper-Karabakh ($91,000), and in Kosovo ($780,000). Pro-Victimis also financed ($70,000) publication of a book examining the extent of the landmine problem worldwide.[28] The Swiss Federation for Mine Clearance operated mine clearance programs during 1999 in Croatia and Kosovo, and mine awareness programs involving a theatrical troupe in Bosnia. It also trained members of the Swiss army in mine clearance supervision, and is designing a light machine for mine clearance.

In 1999, Handicap International (Switzerland) supported mine clearance operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina ($355,000) and Kosovo ($275,000); mine awareness in Bosnia-Herzegovina ($21,700) and Angola ($41,600); victim assistance in Mozambique ($250,000), Albania ($26,700), Cambodia ($51,000), Nicaragua ($43,300), Rwanda ($69,566), Senegal ($12,174) and Somaliland ($26,700). Handicap International (Switzerland) also supported a study, “The use of mechanical means for humanitarian demining operations” ($19,300).

A Swiss company, SM Swiss Ammunition Enterprise Corp., is manufacturing a system that it claims will allow mines and unexploded ordnance to be made safe without having to touch or explode them. This involves a small hollow charge that destroys the mine, ensuring much greater safety for the bomb-disposal experts. This Swiss system (SM-EOD) is now being used increasingly in many mine clearance tasks.


[1] La Loi Federale sur le Materiel de Guerre, 13 December 1996.
[2] Ibid, Article 35.
[3] La Loi Federale sur le Materiel de Guerre, Article 8.3.
[4] Oral statement of the Swiss Delegation, Standing Committee of Experts on the General Status and Operation of the Convention, Geneva, Switzerland, 10-11 January 2000.
[5] Letter from the Department for Foreign Affairs to the Swiss CBL, 30 November 1999.
[6] Swiss government letters to the Swiss CBL, 31 January 2000 and 5 May 2000.
[7] During the 1999 CCW conference Switzerland also suggested that states parties should develop a new protocol on cluster bombs, including a preparatory conference on this subject involving concerned countries.
[8] Interview with the Swiss Mission, May 1999.
[9] Report of the Swiss Delegation to the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe, 19 February 1999, p. 2.
[10] A full report of the International Conference on Non-State Actors is available from the Swiss CBL, ereusse@worldcom.ch.
[11] Information on the Geneva Call deed is available from: Geneva.Call@gkb.com.
[12] Mine Ban Treaty, Article 2.3 (emphasis added).
[13] La Loi Federale sur le Materiel de Guerre, Article 8.2b.
[14] Interview with the Department for Defence, 5 May 2000.
[15] Mine Ban Treaty, Article 3.1.
[16] Landmine Monitor Report 1999, pp. 668-669.
[17] Letter to the Swiss CBL from the Ems Company, 27 January 2000, and information given to the Swiss Parliament, June 1996, in answer to questions from parliamentarians.
[18] Landmine Monitor Report 1999, p. 669.
[19] Interview with the Department for Defence, 5 May 2000.
[20] Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report, submitted 4 August 1999; available at: http://domino.un.org/Ottawa.nsf.
[21] Report to the Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe, 19 February 1999, p. 2.
[22] Oral statement to SCE on Stockpile Destruction, Geneva, 9 December 1999. Human Rights Watch subsequently incorporated this figure into its report, “Antipersonnel Landmine Stockpiles and Their Destruction,” 14 December 1999. The Swiss delegate indicated that some destruction took place as early as 1990. The mines destroyed included 3 million Type 59; 620,000 Type 49; 171,000 Type 64; and, 59,000 Type 63.
[23] ICBL letter to the Foreign Minister, 20 December 1999, in preparation for the January 2000 meeting of the SCE on General Operations and Status of the Convention.
[24] Interview with the Department for Defence, 5 May 2000.
[25] Letter to the Swiss CBL from the Department for Defence, 22 January 1999.
[26] Interview with the Department for Defence, 5 May 2000.
[27] Ibid.
[28] Ilaria Bottigliero, 120 million landmines deployed worldwide: fact or fiction? (Geneva: Pro Victimis, 2000); email: pro.victimis@iprolink.ch.