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Do judges need more independence?

On 28 November 2021, Swiss voters will be asked to vote on changes in the constitution aimed at making judges more independent. The people’s initiative calls for federal judges to be chosen by lot to ensure that they are independent of politics. 

At the moment, federal judges are elected by parliament every six years. Parliament tries to maintain appropriate representation for the political parties in proportion to their support among the electorate. Federal judges must give money to a political party to secure their term of office. 

In 2018 the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) declared that the procedure in Switzerland was “incompatible with the principles of a modern democracy”. The report criticised the fact that judges pay a portion of their salary into their own party’s coffers in a form of indirect party funding. Since 1943, not a single judge who is not affiliated with a political party has been appointed

The judges initiative, launched by the millionaire businessman Adrian Gasser, would replace the current system with one in which judges would be drawn by lot. Proponents of the changes say lawyers should be able to access these high positions solely on merit, even if they do not have a political network.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR