Swiss vote to allow greater government surveillance

Swiss vote to allow greater government surveillance

PanARMENIAN.Net - Swiss voters have approved a new surveillance law, after the government argued that security services needed enhanced powers in an increasingly volatile world, The Guardian reports.

The proposed law won 65.5% support, final results on Sunday, September 25 showed.

Switzerland’s police and intelligence agencies have had limited investigative tools compared with other developed countries. Phone tapping and email surveillance were previously banned, regardless of circumstance.

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 that came into the public eye in part through the revelations of former contractor Edward Snowden.

“This is not generalised surveillance,” Yannick Buttet, the Christian Democratic party vice president, told public broadcaster RTS as results were coming in. “It’s letting the intelligence services do their job.”

The Swiss defense minister, Guy Parmelin, said 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” that 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 defence 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, The Guardian says.

The law was approved by parliament in 2015, but an alliance of opponents, including the Socialist and Green parties, commanded enough signatures to force Sunday’s referendum. The poll was part of Switzerland’s direct democracy system, in which votes are held on a wide range of national issues four times a year and even more frequently at regional and municipal levels.

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