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GENEVA: Switzerland’s executive body is calling for greater transparency and information about imports of gold into the rich Alpine nation, warning that the industry has been linked to human rights violations and other wrongs like environmental damage.

The Federal Council issued a report Wednesday on the implications of the gold market on human rights violations for a country that prides itself on respecting human rights and whose refineries can be responsible for as much as 40 per cent of the world gold-smelting capacity.

Switzerland has imported between 65 billion and 109bn Swiss francs (dollars) of gold per year over the last five years from 92 different countries, it said.

The report warned of the industry’s impact on “poor treatment of employees and contract workers,” indigenous peoples’ lifestyles, local communities, the environment and “threats to the state of law.” The seven-member council, which counts the Swiss president among its members, said its actions could involve regulations banning imports of gold produced in violation of human rights or through voluntary measures and use of existing law.

“Tracing of the origin of gold is essential, because it alone can avoid importing gold extracted in violation of human rights,” the report said. It noted that refiners, for example, possess exact information about the origin of mined gold in contrast to the information provided in customs declarations.

The report says Switzer­land, like other countries, has been taking measures in recent years to respond to the threat of human rights violations in the industry.

“Switzerland is committed, at the national and international level, to ensure that gold produced in violation of human rights is not imported into Switzerland,” it said, claiming Swiss law is among the toughest in the world already on the issue.

“However it can’t be totally ruled out that gold produced in violation of human rights is imported into Switzerland, even if businesses and producer governments have put in place an array of measures aimed to prevent it from happening,” the report said.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2018