On Tuesday, the Grand Chamber approved an amendment to the Goods Control Act by 193 votes to 0 with one abstention. It considers it as necessary to transpose the current temporary regulation into ordinary law. In doing so, it followed its Security Policy Committee (Spc).

In the details, the National Council followed the Federal Council's proposal. Accordingly, the statute should merely stipulate that the Federal Council should regulate the refusal of licenses for the export or brokering of goods that can be used for Internet or mobile phone surveillance.

No tightening of the criteria

The National Council rejected more detailed provisions. The Social Democratic Party (SP) and the Green Party of Switzerland unsuccessfully proposed that the statute should stipulate that a permit should be refused if there is a reason to believe that fundamental rights could be violated or repression could be exercised in the importing country. The proposal failed by 123 votes to 70.

Other minorities called for a more precise definition of export controls. The left-wing party of the National Council demandad that not only goods, but also related advisory services should be covered by the statute. For the majority, however, the provision proposed by the Federal Council is sufficiently detailed. The tenor was that further criteria could cause implementation difficulties.

Only a few requests rejected

The Federal Council can already prohibit the export of surveillance software and equipment if there is a reason to believe that they are being used for repression. However, this is not made possible by statute, but by a regulation of 2015, which is based directly on the Constitution and is therefore limited to four years.

Last year, the Federal Council extended the regulation by four years. From the government's point of view, the regulation has proved its worth. In its dispatch to parliament, the government wrote that only a few applications had been rejected so far. However, the Federal Council wanted to create a statutory basis for an unlimited rule.

Last year, the Security Policy Committee - still in its old composition - spoke out against it and asked the National Council to suspend business in order to gain further experience with the regulation. However, the National Council rejected it. The Council of States will now decide on the rule.

Controversial decoding software

In the recent past, several applications for mobile subscriber identity catchers (imsi-catchers) and devices and software for decoding and analyzing radio signals have been rejected by the Federal Government. These applications were worth a total of CHF 1.6 million.

Imsi-Catchers simulate a base station so that the communication of all mobile phones in the reception area also runs via the Catcher. In this way, phones can be located, calls can be listened in on and data exchange can be read. Imsi-Catcher can be used to combat terrorism or for repression.

The 41 partner states of the Wassenaar Agreement are negotiating which goods are covered by the export ban. However, they are free to decide whether or not to grant export licenses in individual cases.