Listed below are the most important events in the history of the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG):
With the entry into vigour of the Act on the Organization of Federal Law Enforcement Authorities (StBOG; SR 173.71 [ AS 2010 3267]), as per 1 January 2011 the Office of the Attorney General, as the law enforcement authority of the Confederation, will become an autonomously administrated authority lying outside of the Federal Administration (Art. 16 para. 1 StBOG). The Attorney General of Switzerland and his/her two deputies will be elected by the United Federal Assembly (Art. 20 para. 1 StBOG). The (undivided) supervision over the Office of the Attorney General shall also be exercised by a supervisory authority chosen by the United Federal Assembly (Art. 23 et seqq. StBOG).
Organization of Federal Law Enforcement Authorities; election of the Attorney General of Switzerland and the Deputy Attorneys General; and supervision over the Office of the Attorney General
Ordinance of the Federal Assembly on the employment relationship and the salary of the Attorney General and of the Deputy Attorneys General of Switzerland (SR 173.712.23 [ AS 2010 4545
Verordnung der Bundesversammlung über die Organisation und die Aufgaben der Aufsichtsbehörde über die Bundesanwaltschaft (SR 173.712.24 [ AS 2010 4549])
With the Federal Act on the modification of Federal laws for the implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court ( BBl 2010 4277), the Office of the Attorney General is to be entrusted with new competences in the domain of the criminal prosecution of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
Press Release of the FDJP dated 2 November 2010
Botschaft des Bundesrates ( BBl 2008 3863)
As of 1 September 1999 the federal police and security services are separated from the Office of the Attorney General and amalgamated with the Federal Police Office.
Dissolution of the Federal Police
The Federal Police is disbanded as of 1 January 2001. Its judicial duties are taken on by the newly created Federal Criminal Police (FCP); preventive policing tasks are adopted by the also newly created Service for Analysis and Prevention.
The security services of the Federal Administration are now called the Federal Security Service (FSS). See also the organisation FEDPOL.
As of 1 January 2002 the above-mentioned efficiency bill comes into force. The Office of the Attorney General receives new authority in the field of organised crime and economic crime (formerly art. 340 b SCC; now art. 337 SCC). At the same time, the Office of the Attorney General is now an independent judicial authority, a unit of the decentralised Federal Administration which is affiliated merely for administrative purposes to the FDJP (art. 14 para. 1 FCJA, art. 8 para. 2 GAOO; art. 27 AO-FDJP), i.e. in terms of resources (personnel, finances, infrastructure). The Attorney General and his representatives fulfil their tasks independently of instructions from the electoral authorities (art. 16 para. 4 FCJA).
In 2004, the Office of the Attorney General opens branches in the three language regions of (1 March: , 1 April: Lugano, 1 July: ).
On 1 April 2004, the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona sits for the first time. In its investigative work, the Office of the Attorney General is supervised by the Appeals Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court (art. 28 para. 2 FCCA). In its function as public prosecutor, it can act as it considers best (art. 14 para. 2 FCJA), that is to say, totally independently.
After the Federal Act on the Adminstration of Criminal Justice comes into force on 1 January 1935, the Office of the Attorney General assumes the following structure:
This organisational structure is dismantled after the ‘fiche affair'; in the late 1980s, it gradually comes to light that the Political Intelligence Service of the Office of the Attorney General built up a collection of state security files (‘fiches') during the Cold War as part of preventive state security measures. On 31 January 1989, the parliament decides to set up a parliamentary investigation committee (Federal Decree of 31 January 1989; BBl [Federal Gazette] 1989 I 541). Among other tasks, the committee's mandate is to investigate in detail the data collection activities - the collection of these ‘fiches' - of the Office of the Attorney General/Federal Police for purposes of state security.
Reorganisation and Legal Bases
The report of 22 November 1989 by the parliamentary investigation committee on events in the FDJP (BBl 1990 I 637; supplementary report of 29 May 1990, BBl 1990 II 1565) contains, inter alia, two basic demands, which are met in the 1990s:
- Firstly, the reorganisation of the Office of the Attorney General, in particular a separation of the Attorney General's duties: "The task of the Attorney General as public prosecutor should be separated from his position as the person in supreme charge of the Political Intelligence Service and possibly also of the judicial police." Additionally, the tasks and activities of the Office of the Attorney General should be adapted to the security situation in , which is to be reassessed: "Greater emphasis should be placed on the fight against international crime, in particular drug dealing and money laundering." Putting these demands into effect begins with the "separation bill" (Dispatch of 18 August 1993 regarding the amendment to the Federal Act on the Administration of Criminal Justice [separating the tasks of the Attorney General]; BBl III 669) and is completed with the "efficiency bill" (Dispatch of 28 January 1998 regarding the Amendment to the Criminal Code, the Administration of Criminal Justice and Administrative Criminal Law [Measures to improve the Efficiency and Rule of Law in Criminal Prosecution]; BBl 1998 II 1529).
- Secondly, adequate legal provisions are to be created in the area of data protection and preventive policing (intelligence services): "Exact criteria shall be drawn up as to how data and intelligence are to be collected; in particular, the general tasks of the police and their practical application shall be redefined at regular intervals." The Federal Act on the Administration of Federal Criminal Justice is to be amended or extended accordingly (Dispatch of 16 October 1990 regarding Data Processing in the area of Criminal Prosecution [supplementary dispatch on Data Protection Act]; BBl 1990 III 1221). Furthermore, the legal basis for Switzerland's internal intelligence service is created with the Federal Act of 21 March 1997 on Measures to Safeguard Internal Security; (ISA; SR 120), which comes into force on 1 July 1998 (dispatch regarding the Federal Act of 7 March 1994 on Measures to Safeguard Internal Security and on the popular initiative "S.O.S. Schweiz ohne Schnüffelpolizei" [Switzerland without Snooper Police]; BBl 1994 II 1127).
On 19 January 1990 the Federal Council takes emergency action in issuing guidelines regarding reporting by the cantons and information processing by the Office of the Attorney General in issues relating to national security (provisional negative list; printed in BBl 1994 II 1127/1143). With these FDJP guidelines, the Political Intelligence Service is disbanded. The guidelines remain in force until 1 October 1992, when they are replaced by the Directives on the Enforcement of State Security of 9 September 1992, which also contain the principle that the security services should not become involved when citizens are exercising their constitutional rights, in particular in political or trade union activities (BBl 1992 VI 154, no. 13). As of 1 September 1992, the Central Police Office becomes incorporated into the Federal Police Office (Ordinance of 19 August 1992 on the Incorporation of the Central Police Office into the Federal Police Office; AS 1992 1618).
Federal Act on the Office of the Attorney General and the Administration of Federal
The Federal Act of 28 June 1889 on the Office of the Attorney General (AS XI 243 [1889-1890], "new issue") re-establishes the permanent office of Federal Attorney General. The Act states that the Attorney General is elected by the Federal Council and is under its supervision. The Attorney General exercises those functions assigned to him by federal legislation, in particular the Act on the Administration of Federal Criminal Justice (judicial policing). He oversees the (political) aliens police in cases involving acts which threaten the internal or external security of , as well as any investigations relating to this (preventive policing). When given specific instructions to do so, the Attorney General represents the Confederation in court cases.
A further milestone is the Federal Act of 15 June 1934 on the Administration of Federal Criminal Justice (FCJA; SR 312.0). This forms the basis of the criminal investigation procedure still used today by the Office of the Attorney General.
The basis for the State Protection
The emergency Federal Decision of 21 June 1935 on the Protection of the Security of the Confederation (AS 1935 482) provides the basis for creating an investigation and intelligence service for the preservation of the internal and external security of the Confederation by the Office of the Attorney General: the Federal Police. This newly created instrument of state security is divided into the judicial police (law enforcement) and the political police (preventive = intelligence service). The judicial policing role of the Federal Police involves investigating criminal offences subject to federal jurisdiction, in which the Attorney General heads the enquiries. At the same time, this Act also defines new crimes which are subject to federal jurisdiction: illegal acts in office for a foreign state, and providing political, military or industrial intelligence to a foreign state. These provisions are later adopted in the Criminal Code.
Following the affair involving Attorney General René Dubois, the Federal Council Decree of 29 April 1958 regarding the Policing Services of the Office of the Attorney General (AS 1958 267) attempts to separate, at least in part, the Office of the Attorney General from the Federal Police. The policing service is now subject to the Chief of the Federal Police; in the area of political policing, the Attorney General can give the latter instructions, and in the area of judicial policing the Attorney General leads investigations himself in accordance with the Federal Act on the Administration of Federal Criminal Justice.
The birth of the federal state
When the Swiss federal state was founded in 1848, the history of the Office of the Attorney General also began. In Switzerland's very first federal constitution of 12 September 1848 (AS I 3. "Official Compilation"), art. 107 let. a decrees that federal legislation should allow for the creation of the office of public prosecutor. The initial provisions on the Office of the Attorney General are found in the Federal Act of 5 June 1849 on the Organisation of Federal Justice (AS I 65). Art. 43 provides: "The Federal Council shall appoint an Attorney General for the whole of the Confederation (...). The period of office of the Attorney General ends at the same time as that of the Federal Council." According to art. 44, the Attorney General is under the supervision and authority of the Federal Council. However, the Attorney General makes his own applications to the court according to his own convictions (art. 46). He assumes the role of public prosecutor before the Federal Supreme Court.
Creating new laws
As new laws are created at federal level, so the Office of Attorney General is given more and more tasks. In the Federal Act of 20 December 1850 on the Tasks and Remuneration of the Attorney General (AS II 167), the office is endowed with authority additional to that acquired under the Federal Acts of 30 June 1849 on the Organisation of Federal Justice and on Procedure in Cases of Contravention of Federal Acts relating to Fiscal and Police Matters (AS I 87). The Attorney General now also has the authority to carry out preliminary investigations in all cases concerning statelessness, to conduct civil cases in the interests of the Confederation before the Federal Supreme Court and to deal with or appraise other legal matters assigned to him by the Federal Council or government departments.
The Federal Act of 27 August 1851 on Federal Criminal Justice (AS II 743) contains provisions regarding the "procedure in criminal legal matters", the position and tasks of the Office of the Attorney General and judicial police and of examining magistrates in the federal criminal justice system.
Initial allocation of authority
The Federal Act of 4 February 1853 on Federal Criminal Law of the Swiss Confederation (AS III 404; art. 73 ff.) contains the first provisions on jurisdiction (federal and cantonal jurisdiction). The federal assizes are exclusively responsible for dealing with "high treason against the Confederation", "insurgence and acts of violence against the federal authorities", "felonies (misdemeanours) contravening international law" and "political felonies which are the cause or result of disturbances which lead to armed intervention by the federal state". Responsibility for investigating and passing judgment on all other felonies is given to the cantonal authorities.
Art. 32 of the Federal Act of 27 June 1874 on the Organisation of Federal Justice (AS I 136 [1874-75], "new issue") makes the following offences subject to federal jurisdiction: high treason against the Confederation; insurgence and acts of violence against the federal authorities; felonies and misdemeanours contravening international law; political felonies and misdemeanours which are the cause or result of disturbances which lead to armed intervention by the federal state; and cases in which a federal authority brings civil servants named by that authority before the court to be tried. Furthermore, reference is made to art. 73 ff. of the Federal Act of 4 February 1853 on Federal Criminal Law concerning the authority of the federal assizes.
"The Federal Council appoints the Attorney General in each individual case"
A more fundamental change affecting the Office of the Attorney General is stated in art. 37: "The Federal Council appoints the Attorney General in each individual case." Whereas the Office of the Attorney General had been created as a permanent appointment in 1849, a system is now introduced in which the Attorney General is appointed for individual cases (cf. BGE (Decisions of the Federal Supreme Court) 117 Ia 202, E. 4c).
Between 1857 and 1889 no one is appointed head of the Office of the Attorney General for some considerable time; following the resignation of Attorney General Amiet, the Federal Council leaves the position vacant, with the approval of the Federal Assembly. An Attorney General is appointed ad hoc to deal with individual cases.