Switzerland

The “Group for a Switzerland without an Army” (GSoA, Gruppe für eine Schweiz ohne Armee) is one of the main Swiss pacifist groups. Not only for its number of members – around 25,000 – but also because of the successes the organization has acheived: in 1989 the Swiss Armed Forces were surprised when a popular initiative launched by GSoA resulted in more than 35% of the population wanting to abolish the army. The shock following this lack of support for the military has not yet been overcome.

The promotion of peace and human rights is a priority of Swiss foreign policy. But consistency doesn’t seem to be a highly held value in the small Alpine country; not only do Swiss financial institutions - like private and public banks, insurance companies and pension funds - invest billions in arms producing companies all over the world, Swiss-made weapons and military technology are used in many conflicts.

Xstrata, a UK-registered company part of Glencore plc (an Anglo–Swiss commodity trading and mining company) is in court in London accused of hiring the Peruvian National Police (PNP) to oppress environmental protesters who were demonstrating against the Tintaya copper mine in a remote region of the Andes in 2012.

As long as Switzerland is tolerating the arms trade, financial investments into arms manufacturers and military research at universities, it will continue to bear some of the responsibility for the wars and conflicts of the world. 

Arms companies thrive on global instability and worldwide fearmongering since this enables them to sell more weapons and military goods and to make a profit. However, this logic can be reversed: it is the very existence and distribution of weapons and military goods that actually causes global insecurity. 

Swiss activists have been protesting against the purchase of war drones from the Israeli company Elbit Systems. On 25th May, activists blocked the entrance to one of Switzerland's biggest military bases, where members of the Swiss parliament planned to watch a demonstration of the Hermes 900 drone. This was just one of several actions Group for a Switzerland Without an Army (GSoA) took during the last session of the Swiss parliament.

Source: http://www.gsoa.ch/medien/02327/war-drones-activists-block-entrance-military-base-/

Swiss activists blockade entrance to military baseThun, Switzerland – Since 9:30am on Tuesday 25th May, activists have been protesting against the purchase of war drones from the Israeli company Elbit Systems. The activists have blocked the entrance to one of Switzerland's biggest military bases, where members of the Swiss parliament planned to watch the Hermes 900 drone.

Since 9:30 AM, activists from different organisations - Gruppe für eine Schweiz ohne Armee (GSoA), Boycott, Divest and Sanctions against Israel (BDS), Collective Urgence Palestine (CUP) and independent activists - have blocked the entrance to the planned presentation of the Hermes 900 drones, that Switzerland is planning to purchase. No vehicles can go through the main door of the military compound in Thun, which the members of the security committees of both chambers have been invited to.

In our last CO Update we reported on a Swiss referendum on the future of the draft. On 22nd September, 73% of voters opted to maintain conscription.

This is the third time the country has voted down similar proposals by the Group for Switzerland Without an Army: Both a 1989 idea to abolish the army altogether, and a 2001 referendum to replace it with a peace corps, were also rejected.

Swiss citizens will have the chance to vote on whether conscription will be maintained on September 22nd. The Swiss government has already come out against the proposals.

In Switzerland, all men between the ages of 19 and 25 are liable for basic military training. The length of basic military training is 21 weeks, and 18 weeks in some exceptional circumstances.

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