Companies that wish to provide, from Switzerland, private security services abroad must first declare the activity to the competent federal authority, a regulation brought in by the Federal Act on Private Security Services Provided Abroad (PSSA), which entered into force on 1 September 2015. The unit in charge of implementing the PSSA is the Export Controls and Private Security Services Section (ECPS), attached to the State Secretariat of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA). In 2020, the ECPS received 495 declarations. These mainly fell into four groups of activities: protecting persons and guarding goods and properties in complex environments, maintaining public order, private intelligence services, and support for armed or security forces. In its fifth report, the ECPS found that about half of the declarations concerned activities in North Africa and the Middle East, Europe or Central Asia.
The ECPS initiated three review procedures in 2020. In one case, the planned activity was prohibited. In another case, the declaration was withdrawn by the company. A third case was still pending at the end of the period under review. The authority prohibited two of the activities declared in 2019.
No private security services that could lead to direct participation in hostilities or serious human rights violations were identified in 2020. All such activities are prohibited under the PSSA.
Revisions to the ordinance
On 12 February 2020, the Federal Council decided to carry out a partial revision of the Ordinance on Private Security Services Provided Abroad (OPSA). Based on the recommendations of an interdepartmental working group, the Federal Council amended the ordinance on 11 November 2020. It entered into force on 1 January 2021. There will be significant changes to implementation from 2021. The FDFA will regularly evaluate and continuously improve processing procedures in consultation with the responsible offices of the other departments.
International standards for private security companies
At the international level, in 2020 the FDFA took part in further dialogue on standards for private security companies and on oversight mechanisms relating to their activities. In its report for the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council in September 2020, the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries highlighted the leading role Switzerland plays in the various international forums in the area of control and regulation of private security services. It encouraged Switzerland to continue its efforts in this regard. Encouraged by the working group's endorsement, Switzerland will continue to take forward its commitment to the control and regulation of private security services abroad.
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