The Swiss government’s war on the weak

Multinational corporations like Glencore and their subsidiaries pay off local governmental forces or hire mercenaries in resource rich third world countries to drive inhabitants off off their legally owned land so they can mine the minerals or drill for oil. Swiss law doesn’t allow for class action lawsuits, so every single ousted person would have to hire his or her own lawyer and sue these huge corporations alone, instead of the thousands of victims banding together and filing one common lawsuit.

Swiss law allows the sale of weapons to any country not on a very short list, provided the buyer promises the weapons won’t end up in the hands of human rights abusers. The sole control mechanism is the so-called “end user certificate” which is exactly what it sounds like: a worthless piece of paper. Regimes not on the list can purchase arms unfettered, even if they have a track record of using these arms against their own citizens in nonviolent protests or their troops are partaking in a neighboring country’s civil war. Not even if such a regime resells (or gifts) the weapons en masse to known terrorist organizations are they barred from further purchases. Even regimes with known human rights violations can buy arms with certain limitations, for example if the war materiel is declared as only suitable for training purposes. That’s how airplanes from Pilatus Werke ended up strafing civilians in Darfur: all the Sudanese regime had to do was use a different order form for the wing-mount machine guns and missile launchers.

Chemical conglomerates like Syngenta scout out highly customized local crops in remote third world locations, take samples without notifying local authorities and then bring them back to Europe and North America where they patent them, to in turn go back to the place of origin and serve farmers with a notice that they either pay the licensing fees or are not allowed to plant the crops their ancestors lived off for centuries.

And while some Swiss NGOs are calling on government and parliament to pass laws fixing the injustice, their pleas fall on deaf ears. Unlike in the US, here in Switzerland the law doesn’t require politicians to disclose gifts and payments received from lobbyists.

Leave a Comment