Swiss voters back new surveillance law

Swiss voters back new surveillance law

GENEVA – Agence France-Presse
Swiss voters back new surveillance law

AFP Photo

Swiss voters approved a new surveillance law on Sept. 25, in a victory for the government which argued the security services needed enhanced powers in an increasingly volatile world. 

The proposed law won 65.5 percent support across the wealthy alpine nation, final results showed.  
Switzerland’s police and intelligence agencies have had limited investigative tools compared to other developed countries: phone tapping and email surveillance were previously banned, regardless of the circumstances.

But the new law will change that.

The government insisted it was not aiming to set up a vast data-gathering apparatus, similar to the one developed by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) that came into the public eye in part through former contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations.

“This is not generalized surveillance,” lawmaker and Christian Democratic Party vice president Yannick Buttet told public broadcaster RTS as results were coming in.

“It’s letting the intelligence services do their job,” he added. 

Swiss Defense Minister Guy Parmelin had said that with the new measures, Switzerland was “leaving the basement and coming up to the ground floor by international standards.”  

Parmelin insisted the Swiss system was not comparable “to the United States or other major powers,” who have struggled to find the right balance between privacy and security.  

Phone or electronic surveillance of a suspect will only be triggered with approval by a federal court, the Defense Ministry and the cabinet, according to the law.  

Bern has said these measures would be used only a dozen times a year, to monitor only the highest-priority suspects, especially those implicated in terrorism-related cases.