Switzerland and the USA Regulate Cooperation in Criminal Investigations of Terrorist Activities

Federal Councillor Christoph Blocher and Attorney General

Keywords: Terrorism

Press Release, FDJP, 12.07.2006

Washington, D.C., Cooperating quickly and safely in terrorist attacks requires that the rules on cooperation be clarified beforehand. That is ensured by the arrangement with the USA on cooperation related to combating terrorism and its financing signed by Federal Councillor Blocher in Washington today. The arrangement contributes to the security of our country and its people.

The arrangement must be approved by the Swiss Parliament and will presumably be sent to the first Chamber later this year, allowing the arrangement to go into effect by the summer of 2007 at the earliest. The negotiations for the successor instrument to the Operative Working Arrangement (OWA) with the USA were concluded in the spring. On May 3, 2006, the Federal Council approved the text of the arrangement and Federal Councillor Blocher was given the competence to sign it.

After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Switzerland and the USA agreed to facilitate their cooperation in criminal investigations directly connected with the attacks. In September 2002, the exact extent of the cooperation and the duration were provided for in an Operative Working Arrangement (OWA). Since it is in Switzerland’s interest to continue to regulate its cooperation with U.S. law enforcement agencies over the long term as well, in June 2005, the Swiss Federal Council made the decision to begin negotiations with the USA on a new general cooperation arrangement related to combating terrorism and the financing of terrorism.

The new agreement replaces the Operative Working Arrangement of September 4, 2002. It provides for the employment and mode of operation of joint Swiss and American investigative teams. Unlike the OWA, however, the cooperation is no longer limited to investigations related to the Al Qaeda organization and the September 11, 2001, attacks. In cases of terrorism and its financing in general and when an investigation is necessary, the successor instrument makes it possible to use joint investigative teams of officials from Swiss and U.S. law enforcement agencies. The requirement is a criminal proceeding initiated in both countries which is conducted by a prosecutor and is thus under control of the judicial authorities. The new agreement has to be approved by the Swiss Parliament since, unlike the OWA, it is no longer a technical arrangement focused on an individual proceeding.

The primary emphasis for employing posted officials is to provide support in analyzing intelligence and to recommend strategies for further investigations. For example, participation in interrogations and other investigative acts requires the special approval of the prosecutor in charge of the proceeding.

The arrangement provides for restrictions regarding the use of the information obtained by the posted officials. As in the OWA, the underlying principle is strict compliance with the provisions on international requests for assistance in criminal matters. The arrangement prevents any circumvention of the mutual legal assistance procedure and thus guarantees that the person concerned enjoys legal protection. In addition, it refers to the existing Treaty on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between Switzerland and the USA.

Also under the new arrangement, it is very important that in difficult terrorism cases, the rules for technical cooperation are clear from the start, thus providing an instrument guaranteeing a prompt response and efficient case processing. In that way, the new arrangement also ensures the security of our nation and its people by strengthening international cooperation in combating terrorism. It also represents the systematic deepening of relations between Switzerland and the United States which the Federal Council decided on in May 2005.

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