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Court: Criminal investigation into Bondo landslide must continue

Val Bondasca in September 2017: Eight hikers died and several houses were destroyed in one of the biggest landslides in Switzerland for over 130 years © Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller

The public prosecutor for canton Graubünden in eastern Switzerland must continue the criminal investigation into the major landslide in Bondo in 2017. The victims’ relatives have been successful in their appeal to the Swiss Federal Court.

This content was published on February 12, 2021 - 18:32
Keystone-SDA/ts

Eight hikers died and several houses were destroyed in one of the biggest landslides in Switzerland for over 130 years on August 23, 2017, on Piz Cengalo. The victims have since been presumed missing.

Relatives are fighting the dismissal of the criminal proceedings. In their view, the necessary safety precautions had not been taken before the landslide.

The plaintiffs were unsuccessful before the Graubünden cantonal court, which a year ago backed the findings of the Graubünden public prosecutor’s office, which said the event could not have been foreseen. However, the Swiss Federal Court upheld the appeal by the relatives.

Recusal

According to the ruling published on Friday, the decision to drop the case will be sent back to the cantonal prosecutor’s office, which must continue the criminal investigation. 

The prosecutor’s office had relied on a 73-page report by the Graubünden Cantonal Office for Forests and Natural Hazards. Even though this document was of an administrative nature, the Federal Court noted that question of the foreseeability of the event was dealt with on several pages.

In this respect, the judges in Lausanne wrote, the report went beyond the mere conclusions of officials. The conditions for the admission of an expert opinion should have been observed, in particular those relating to recusal, withdrawing owing to a conflict of interest, they said.

The judges noted that many people had contributed to the report and that several of them had been defendants during the investigation. This fact would have required that the issue of recusal be thoroughly examined, they wrote.

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