Switzerland Contests Strasbourg Decision for the First Time and Wants to Control Indiscretions

In April 2006, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg ruled four votes to three that the Swiss authorities violated a Swiss journalist’s right to freedom of expression under article 10 of the European Human Rights Convention. Contesting this decision, the Swiss government made a request, for the first time, the ECHR Grand Chamber in August 2006. In December 2007, the latter decided that in certain circumstances, the State’s interest to keep certain diplomatic reports secret prevails over freedom of expression.

Background

In January 1997, the journalist Martin Stoll wrote two stories that contained leaks from a “confidential” report by the then Swiss ambassador in Washington, Carlo Jagmetti, on negotiations with the World Jewish Congress about unclaimed Jewish assets in Swiss banks. Stoll was fined 800 Swiss francs in 1999 under article 293 of the criminal code for publishing “official confidential deliberations.” He appealed to the Federal Court, which confirmed the decision. In 2001, he appealed the ECHR.

Controversial article 293

This article 293 of the Swiss Penal Code, which as been a source of controversy for decades, violates article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Basic freedoms, which concerns free expression. The Swiss Federal Council itself proposed repealing article 293 in 1996, but this was rejected a year later by the National Council and the Council of States. In 1997, a motion by Green Party parliamentarian Josef Lang demanded the repeal of article 293 punishing the “publication of secret official debates,” under which Stoll was convicted. After the ECHR’s decision, chances are very few. On 7 May 2008, the Federal Council decided not to repeal it from the Penal Code, but to revise it in order to harmonize the Swiss law according to the European Human Rights Convention.

Sources in French

 

Update: 15.05.2008

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