Conflict over nuclear files intensifies

Published on, by Thomas Stephens and Urs Geiser, July 10, 2009.

Following a police raid on a federal building in connection with a nuclear-smuggling case, tensions between Switzerland’s judiciary and executive have escalated.

At the centre of the showdown is a dossier that contains roughly 100 pages of documents so sensitive that the government wants them destroyed. The original files were indeed shredded secretly in November 2007 but copies surfaced last December.

On Thursday investigators and cantonal police stormed into federal security offices in Bern and seized a safe containing the keys to a filing cabinet that holds the disputed documents …  

… “Power-mad politicians”:

The police raid has been the main story in Swiss newspapers, which failed to find a common line.

In the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) Alain Griffel, a law professor at Zurich University, described the move by the court as “high-handed”.

Griffel admittes that neither the constitution nor the law helped resolve the issue, but believes the government should have the trump card when the interests of the state are at stake.

The NZZ also quoted Georg Müller, a retired professor of law, as saying it was a serious conflict about the separation of powers between judiciary and executive and the question of who should have the upper hand.

Bern’s Der Bund and the Zurich-based Tages-Anzeiger were more critical of their politicians.

The government was obsessed with power, said the Tages-Anzeiger in its editorial. “There are now serious doubts about whether the government is in touch with reality. The seven power-mad politicians appear to believe they rule the citizens of this country. But in reality they serve them.”

The Berner Zeitung said it was high time to answer many questions. “Switzerland can’t afford such a major dispute between the judiciary and the executive. The country benefits, like no other, from social, political and legal stability – particularly during a global financial crisis.”

For its part, the Neue Luzerner Zeitung takes confort in that “the separation of powers works well in Switzerland.” (full text).

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