Grenades and ammunition
File picture - Handout photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA shows grenades, ammunition and wads of cash in Deraa. REUTERS

President Bashar al-Assad's troops have been using Swiss-made hand grenades that were originally shipped to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2004.

The Swiss government said the grenades were exported to the United Arab Emirates in 2004 but have since made their way into Assad's hands.

The government set up an inquiry after a newspaper picture showed Assad's forces using Swiss-made grenades.

The Swiss goverment immediately suspended arms shipments to the UAE, but has now resumed sales in light of the inquiry's findings. The UAE has also assured the Swiss government that no other shipments were transferred. The Swiss stopped selling arms to Syria in 1998.

The inquiry has revealed that the grenades were sent to Jordan from the UAE in 2004, and later reached Syria. Nearly 225,000 hand grenades were purchased by the UAE in 2004.

The Swiss government's statement was short on detail. Only in 2006 did the government introduce a rule prohibiting other nations from re-exporting arms. The rules were tightened further to prohibit the lending or donation of arms.

After the Syrian incident, the Swiss government is said to be considering new rules to allow its officials to inspect sites post-shipment.

Arms exports to several other countries will also come under the microscope, although no specific country was named.

Opposition groups inside Switzerland have criticised the initiatives as inadequate. "These declarations are like smoke in the eyes. There are a lot of other previous examples where such engagements or declarations by the buyers were not respected. It is important that Switzerland, as a depositary state of the Geneva Conventions, adopts a coherent position and does not find excuses to go on doing business as usual in the interest of a very narrow sector of the economy," the activist and historian Tobias Schnebli told Swissinfo.