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Justice system reform likely to be backed in referendum

Key plans to reform the Swiss justice system will go before a national referendum next month, with analysts now expecting the government proposals to be passed by a comfortable majority.

This content was published on February 10, 2000 - 21:00

Key plans to reform the Swiss justice system will go before a national referendum next month, with analysts now expecting the government proposals to be passed by a comfortable majority. The reforms are intended to impose greater uniformity on the legal system and also to relieve the Federal Court in Lausanne of some of its heavy workload.

Parliament overwhelmingly approved the proposed changes to the legal system last year. The main aim of the reforms is to iron out discrepancies in the procedural rules relating to different cantonal courts.

One of the least controversial proposals will give everybody the right to take their disputes straight to a court of law, without having to first go before an administrative tribunal. But the plan to give federal authorities the right to introduce uniform criminal and civil law procedures across cantonal boundaries could yet galvanise opposition to the reforms.

At least one cantonal lawyers' association has already come out against the idea. But on the whole, the reforms are seen as a useful weapon against criminals who take advantage of cantonal frontiers.

The reforms are expected to be approved in next month's referendum, not least because they have the backing of all the major political parties. In addition, the most contentious proposal has already been filtered out.

As part of a sweeping modification of direct democratic rights, the government had wanted to increase the number of hurdles to submitting initiatives, referendums, and also access to the federal court.

This proved politically unacceptable and the only way to reduce the workload of the federal court without at the same time restricting citizens' access has been to propose an additional judge's panel which will decide if a case can go before the federal court or not.

From staff and wire reports

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