Private security companies: A status report - Federal Council identifies need for action

Bern, 05.12.2005 - In view of the increasing role played by private security companies, the Federal Council believes cantonal regulations must be more closely harmonised. In addition, Switzerland's humanitarian tradition means that the country can make a valuable contribution to strengthening and concretising international regulations in international humanitarian law specifically. These are the conclusions set out by the Federal Council in its report on private security and military companies, published Friday.

In this report, which has its origins in a variety of parliamentary initiatives, the Federal Council emphasises that the monopoly on the use of force is a core element of the modern state. The delegation of state security functions to the private sector is therefore tightly restricted. While many private security companies are genuine and operate in a highly professional manner, this rapidly expanding sector may also attract dubious firms and individuals. In addition, there are problems in relation to authority and transparency where the population is concerned. People are not always able to distinguish between the employees of private security companies and officers ensuring law and order on behalf of the state.

Defining conditions for federal government contracts

At federal government level, delegating state functions to private security companies is of relatively minor importance. These companies' services are restricted to protecting buildings and other installations, providing reception services and security at the entrances to federal buildings, as well as security for transportation and private individuals. The Federal Council is nonetheless prepared to examine whether or not the general conditions that private security companies must fulfil to be awarded a contract from the Swiss Confederation should be specified.

Positive collaboration between public and private sectors

Cantons and municipalities delegate state functions to the private sector more often than the federal government. Countless private security companies perform traditional security tasks both in the private sector and for public-sector bodies (e.g. guarding or surveillance of property, entrance checks at major events). In many places, public-sector bodies and private-sector companies work together effectively to guarantee public safety and order. Problems may nonetheless arise if private individuals are checked by employees of private security companies whose powers and authority to intervene are not sufficiently clear.

Cantons have already taken action

The cantons are responsible for the supervision of private security companies. The Federal Council would like to see more standardised rules at cantonal level. This is because major pan-regional or international events are becoming more and more important, while universal threat scenarios mean that security details must cover a wider area and yet still be more tightly integrated with each other. The Federal Council also believes it imperative that all cantons introduce minimum standards for the authorisation and monitoring of private security companies to eliminate providers who are not genuine or professional. It is therefore calling upon the cantons to harmonise their regulations more closely. Steps in this direction have already been taken with the conclusion of the concordat between French-speaking cantons, and the drafting of model provisions by the Conference of Cantonal Police Commandants in Switzerland (KKPKS).

Individual private security companies are active in areas of crisis and conflict abroad from a base in Switzerland. The Federal Council is therefore willing to examine whether or not such companies should also be subject to authorisation or registration requirements.

International initiatives

In the view of the Federal Council, national regulation alone is not enough. Instead, governments must develop common international standards governing private military and security companies. With its humanitarian tradition, Switzerland could instigate an international initiative in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The aim of such an initiative would be to promote intergovernmental dialogue with a view to greater respect for international law and research into national and international models of regulation. The first steps have already been taken, and a conference of government experts on the issue is planned for next year.

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Last modification 11.06.2024

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