Back to the rule of law!

Lausanne activists sentenced for trespassing

mw. Do you remember the climate activists who occupied a Credit Suisse branch in Lausanne in November 2018, played tennis there and disrupted operations so that the bank had to be closed for a short time? CS filed a complaint for trespassing. To the surprise of many legal experts and laymen with a sound understanding of the law, the twelve activists were acquitted on January 13, 2020: The judging district judge – possibly impressed by the parade of lawyers – found that the threat of climate change was an “emergency” within the meaning of the Swiss Criminal Code, which could justify an act that was punishable in itself.1 Since the public prosecutor of the canton of Vaud referred the case to the cantonal court of appeal, the latter is now putting the rule of law back on its feet.

Listening to the activists, one could be struck by “a hint of sympathy”, said Eric Cottier, Attorney General of the Canton of Vaud, at the court hearing. However, the cantonal court should not be guided by this, but should “simply apply the law”, and this is crystal clear in this case.2 On 24 September, the cantonal court of Vaud sentenced the activists to conditional fines and penalties for trespassing and violating the law on administrative fines.
  The law has thus been satisfied. But if you listen to the comments of the criminals and their lawyers, you may feel chilly: The motives here are quite different from the maintenance of the rule of law. According to one activist, the judiciary did not dare “to develop the law further.” One of the twelve (!) lawyers even announced that “the court of appeal preferred to defend the interests of the financial center to the detriment of future generations”.3 Obviously, some lawyers do not care about that the judiciary is not responsible for politics, but for administering justice.
  In reality, the perpetrators and their defense attorneys are not at all dissatisfied with the verdict: they have already announced that they want to take it to the Federal Supreme Court and possibly the European Court of Human Rights. The attention of the media and many “wellmeaning” contemporaries will thus be assured for years to come. •



1 see Wüthrich, Marianne. “Leveraging the rule of law for activists?”, in: Current Concerns of 4.2.2020
2 Fumagalli, Antonio. “Trial against climate activists who played tennis in a CS branch: Prosecutor demands that the court ‘simply apply the law’”, in: NZZ online of 22.9.2020.
3 “Acquittal for climate activists in Vaud overturned”, in: swissinfo of 24.9.2020 (Keystone-SDA)

Mayor of Bern supports illegal demonstrations

mw. During the sessions of the National Council and the Council of States (four times three weeks a year) demonstrations on the Bundesplatz in Bern are prohibited. The parliamentarians are supposed to make their way to the entrance of the Bundeshaus by not having to push through demonstrators and not be disturbed in their work by the noise of the loudspeakers.
  In disregard of the ban, on Monday, 21 September, climate activists occupied the Bundesplatz and announced that they wanted to stay for one week (i. e. until the end of the Session on Friday). The Presidents of the National Council and the Council of States asked the Bern city government to clear the Bundesplatz. On Tuesday the demonstrators were still there, only in the night to Wednesday the police cleared the protest camp.
  How was that possible? Why did the authorities not intervene immediately? Quite simply: The green mayor Alec von Graffenried – who can be re-elected or not by the people of Bern! – lived so to speak with the climate protesters and refused to enforce the law. The following excerpts from an interview with SRF News speak for themselves:

“SRF News: Alec von Graffenried, what do you say to the protest?
Alec von Graffenried: It is colourful. We are impressed by how quickly this was organised and built up. […]

Is it acceptable what the climate activists do?
The Bundesplatz should principally be free during the sessions, and now it is not free. This means that it is an infringement. We need to see how we can handle that.

Do you have sympathy for the demonstration?
We understand the climate strike movement and their conviction, but we must see how we can find a way with this protest. There are rules that apply to everyone. Activists must also comply with these rules.

The camp has been tolerated for several hours - is it still up tonight?
I can’t tell you yet. They are, however, cooperative. This is a good prerequisite, so that it must not immediately be cleared.

They want to stay until the end of the week. How long is the city of Bern going to watch that?
We are now entering into negotiations with them, more we cannot say yet. The action week will last until the end of the week anyway. So the activists will be present in the city by the end of the week - I don’t know yet what that looks like. Whether they stay here, we’ll see. […]”

Source: “Protest on the Bundesplatz. Bernese Mayor: ‘We did not expect this’.”,
in: SRF News of Monday, 21.9.2020

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If this is the introduction into living together under the rule of law and into the sense of rules and of mutual consideration, which we adults today intend to give to our youth - then good night at six ‘o clock.

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