“False forecasts”: Harsh criticism of the former leadership of the federal judiciary
The audit commissions accuse the former leadership of the Federal Supreme Court and the Federal Criminal Court of having obstructed the establishment of the new appeals chamber in Bellinzona for political reasons and with false forecasts.
For years, the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona has not been able to get out of the turbulence. The tribunal let the prestigious “summer fairy tale” case against important football officials statute of limitations, there were allegations of bullying and sexual harassment, in short: Bellinzona did not exactly shine with reports of success.
However, the situation has improved since the former court president Sylvia Frei (SVP) no longer ran for re-election. She was partly to blame for the statute of limitations on the football proceedings. Departures in the Appeals Chamber and in the General Secretariat have also contributed to the relaxation.
Staff was too small
However, significant problems remain unresolved in the Appeals Chamber, as the Parliament’s Business Review Commission (GPK) writes in a report. Since its inception in 2019, the Appeals Chamber has repeatedly given a voice. However, one of the main reasons for the discord and squabbling was a simple one: from the outset, the Chamber was deprived of the resources it would have needed to function properly. The workforce was far too small to prepare and carry out the numerous processes.
According to the GPK, the reason for this was “deep forecasts” made by the then President of the Federal Criminal Court, Daniel Kipfer Fasciati (Greens). These false predictions were “systematic and corresponded to a political calculation; they were not merely the result of misjudgment».
You have to know that criminal cases in federal affairs – for example money laundering or terrorism – are first judged by the criminal court in Bellinzona. In the past, the only option was to lodge a complaint with the Federal Supreme Court in Lausanne. However, this only decides on the basis of the files and does not clarify the facts again. No processes take place there either. At the time, there was no possibility of appeal in Bellinzona to review the facts.
In the cantons, criminal cases come before a court of first instance and, in the event of an appeal, before the second instance, often called the cantonal court or higher court. Only then can Lausanne be called. It was only with the founding of the Appeals Chamber in Bellinzona that the federal criminal justice system received its statutory second instance. The Appeals Chamber then holds another whole process including questioning and testimonies. Those who are not satisfied with the verdict can go to the Federal Supreme Court in Lausanne. There, however, only legal questions are examined.
Fall prognosis was too low
The establishment of the Appeals Chamber thus fulfilled a statutory mandate. According to the GPK report, the former court president Kipfer was “convinced that the Federal Council and Parliament would only agree to a minimal variant with as little effort as possible.” So he had always tried to “represent the resource requirements as low as possible”.
This is how the prognosis came about that the Appellate Chamber would only have to deal with eleven cases per year. In the first year of its existence, there were almost three times as many, starting with 35 cases. In the first semester of this year alone, 18 appointments were received.
“The misjudgment of the number of cases and the underestimated need for judges had decisive consequences in terms of planning the organization of the appeals body,” the GPK continue. The report then poses the question of how the Federal Council and Parliament are supposed to draft good and viable laws if the court administrations withhold truthful and up-to-date figures free of political considerations.
Two former presidents of the Federal Supreme Court in Lausanne, whose administrative commission is also the supervisory authority for Bellinzona, also get their fat off. The example of a judge of the Appellate Chamber shows how the processes in the federal judiciary, which are hidden from the public, actually work.
Shortly after her election and months before the start of the new court chamber, Andrea Blum (SVP) rang the alarm bells in view of the blatant lack of resources when she was summoned by a parliamentary commission. She addressed the organizational shortcomings, which are now also being criticized by the GPK. Although parliamentary commissions form the supreme supervision of the federal judiciary, the tit-for-tat response from the then President of the Federal Court, Ulrich Meyer (SP), was not long in coming. In a supervisory report, he accused Judge Blum of violating official secrecy in 2020.
However, the GPK saw this as a false accusation, as they wrote in an earlier report: According to this, the statement in the supervisory report is not in accordance with the law, according to which the transmission of information to parliamentarians by individual judges violates official secrecy. Meyer didn’t care about this rather severe rebuke by the supervisor, he just wanted to give the unpleasant judge a lesson.
And not only that: while it was still about writing the supervisory report, Meyer commented on Blum in a sexist and derogatory way. Unfortunately, a microphone picked up these remarks, but none of this had any consequences. Anyone in the federal judiciary who rightly points out mistakes and omissions on the part of the leadership will be taken down, even if a GPK report later finds that the criticism was absolutely justified.