Thun, 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.
War crimes with Swiss technology?
The Swiss members of parliament will decide in the afternoon whether or not they will buy six surveillance drones from the controversal Israeli arms manufaturer Elbit Systems, which is directly contributing to violations of international humanitarian law. As offsets to the purchase, Swiss companies will upgrade the Hermes 900 drones with high end technology. This makes it very probable that Swiss technology will be used in future war crimes, the activists say. The fact that Elbit Systems is contributing to violations of international humanitarian law led the Norwegian government to stop funding the company by the states pension fund in 2009.
"We do not wish to fund companies that contribute to violations of international humanitarian law so directly." Kristin Halvorsen, Ministry of finance of Norway, September 3th 2009.
"This deal would be a direct contribution to war crimes. It is not only against Switzerland's policy of neutrality but also fails to fulfil international obligations under the 4th Geneva Convention. It is a shame that Switzerland plans to contribute technology to violations of international humanitarian law – instead of preventing them from taking place.“ Jannik Böhm, one of the activist states.
Parliament must prevent war crimes
The activists demand that the Swiss parliament refuses this deal and to take all necessary steps to prevent war crimes from taking place – instead of contributing to them.