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Top judge re-elected in row over separation of powers

Donzallaz criticised the People's Party for putting him under undue pressure to follow party doctrine in his legal decisions. © Keystone/Gaëtan Bally

Parliament has elected the 38 members of Switzerland’s top court amid a political controversy about the independence of the judiciary.

This content was published on September 23, 2020 - 16:15
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A joint session of both chambers of parliament on Wednesday confirmed 37 judges at the federal courtsExternal link in Lausanne and Lucerne for another six-year term.

One new member was also appointed to replace a judge who stepped down after spending 30 years of his career as a federal court judge.

The elections came amid a controversy over a recommendation by the Swiss People’s Party not to re-elect federal judge Yves Donzallaz, who they consider untenable. He was initially voted in as a candidate of the right-wing party 12 years ago but was criticised by party members for a ruling last year that allowed the transfer of UBS bank client data to French tax authorities.

Under the Swiss system, members of the top courts are chosen proportional to the main political parties in parliament and the country’s language regions.

The People’s Party denied allegations of political interference and the separation of powers.

FIFA case

In another development, parliament also appointed a special attorney general to prosecute the former Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber who is facing allegations of abuse of office and favouritism in the handling of an investigation into the world football governing body FIFA.

The special prosecutor, Stefan Keller, was the only candidate. He previously led an inquiry that denied Lauber legal immunity from prosecution.

Lauber stepped down at the beginning of September amid increasing pressure by politicians.

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