Let judges expel foreign criminals: Sommaruga

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommargua has proposed tough amendments to the penal code in an effort to deter criminals.

Let judges expel foreign criminals: Sommaruga
Monika Flückiger (File)

The Social Democratic minister wants to abolish conditional fines, reintroduce short prison sentences, and give judges the power to expel foreign criminals as soon as they have served their time. 

Sommaruga’s aim is to “restore confidence in criminal law,” she said on Wednesday, newspaper Tribune de Genève reports.

Short prison sentences for minor offences were done away with five years ago amid criticism from several political parties, sections of the judiciary and much of the population.

Public Prosecutor for the canton of Vaud, Eric Cottier, is pleased at the planned return of short prison terms to the judicial arsenal. Others, including National Councillors Christian Lüscher and Isabelle Moret, also welcomed the proposed changes.

Moret said she believed fines or community service were not suitable for certain offenders.

“The prospect of prison is more of a deterrent for some,” she told the newspaper.

However, National Councillor Carlo Sommaruga slammed the proposal from his fellow Social Democrats, saying that no conclusive data had yet been made available on the current penal code and so there was no way of knowing whether the conditional fine system had worked or not.

He called the justice minister’s move “criminal populism”, saying that she could only be politically motivated, newspaper Tages Anzeiger reported.

Simonetta Sommaruga also proposed a controversial change to the law, which will allow the judiciary in a criminal case to expel a foreign offender once his or her sentence has been served.

This has pleased the far right Swiss People’s Party(SVP), who have long championed the mandatory expulsion of foreign criminals.

In November 2010, Swiss voters approved an SVP initiative to expel all foreign criminals upon release. However, the government refused to push through all the agreed changes due to international concerns, Tages Anzeiger reports.

The SVP is now in the process of trying to force a second referendum on the matter to ensure deportation is made mandatory. 

Carlo Sommaruga meanwhile said he continues to oppose the mandatory expulsion of criminals who have served their sentences.

“Expulsion would mean that a foreign criminal would be punished twice for the same crime that a Swiss would be punished only once for” he said.

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Here’s how to snare an invite to the Swiss president’s birthday party

Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga is turning 60 on May 14 and is planning a party with a difference by inviting along all Swiss citizens who share her birthday.

Here's how to snare an invite to the Swiss president's birthday party

There were 94,372 births in Switzerland in 1960 — the year Sommaruga was born — meaning that the average maximum number of invitees would be around 258.

Sommaruga is not taking any chances with potential gatecrashers and is asking prospective celebrants to submit a copy of their passport through the presidency website.

“I would be delighted to receive your registration for my birthday party,” Sommaruga wrote on Twitter on Thursday.


She is also keeping the location secret and said only that it would be “in the Bern area” — the Swiss capital. 

The Swiss presidency is a largely ceremonial role that rotates annually between leading political parties.

Sommaruga, a Socialist Party member who already served as president in 2015, took up her post on January 1 and delivered her New Year's address from her local bakery.