On 1 July 2017 the code of conduct for the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) came into effect, a directive from the Attorney General that applies to all OAG employees. The code of conduct and rules of good administrative practice are the outcome of several years’ work in the field of professional ethics, a field which is becoming increasingly important both in the private sector and in public administration. Although Switzerland was one of the last members of the Council of Europe to introduce a code of this kind for public prosecutors, the OAG regarded it as important to take matters a step further and to propose new areas of application, thus providing solutions to some of the highly pragmatic dilemmas that its staff face in their everyday professional lives.
The OAG has set up an advisory committee that is independent of the OAG Directorate. This provides practical guidance on the general concepts outlined in the code of conduct, in particular by giving answers to the questions asked by OAG employees. The OAG intends that the code of conduct should evolve, by developing a practical compendium of case histories based on the requests and queries that arise from everyday situations and challenges within the OAG. The committee is also responsible for making new employees aware of the various aspects of professional ethics.
In order to secure the trust of those involved in legal proceedings and of the public in general, in particular by highlighting the principles of independence, impartiality, integrity and dignity, it is crucial that the rule of law be upheld. With its code of conduct, the OAG affirms these values and provides guidelines on how to act in delicate or challenging situations. The OAG now has an instrument that helps to ensure that its procedures run smoothly and so has followed the recommendations made by the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) in its report on Switzerland in the fourth evaluation round.