Public Law Division

Appeals to the Federal Council

Appeals may be lodged with the Federal Council on matters of domestic and international security, as well as foreign policy. To the extent that the Federal Council is simultaneously a supervisory authority, it also handles complaints relating to supervision (see Arts. 72 to 74 of the Federal Administrative Procedure Act (Verwaltungsverfahrensgesetz); SR 172.021). The Public Law Division manages the appeal process and makes a recommendation to the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) on how the matter should be resolved. This is then passed on to the Federal Council. An exception is made in the case of complaints against the FDJP, which are handled by the Federal Department of Finance (FDF).

Legislation Projects and Methodology Unit

The Legislation Projects and Methodology Unit is responsible for preparing public-law decrees of which the FDJP is in overall charge and which do not fall within the remit of another agency or Division of the Federal Office of Justice. Projects involve all legislative levels (constitution, statutes, ordinances). They extend across principal questions pertaining to the organization and powers of state institutions (principle of freedom of information in government, citizens' rights, parliament, federalism, emergency law, church and state, etc.). Projects also cover legislative issues which do not clearly fall within the remit of another agency (victim assistance, lawyers' freedom of movement, etc.). This relates in particular to matters of an interdepartmental or interdivisional nature (equal treatment of men and women, equal treatment of the disabled, etc.), in which the Unit also assumes certain implementation and supervisory tasks, especially with regard to victim assistance.

In addition, the Legislation Projects and Methodology Unit is involved in matters relating to legislation methodology and the evaluation of law.  

One of the tasks of the new Religious Affairs Office is to strengthen coordination and exchange between federal agencies on projects with a bearing on religious issues, thus ensuring a cohesive position across the federal government. It also provides a point of contact and support on religious matters for external stakeholders, specifically the cantons and religious communities. The creation of the office does not change the responsibilities currently held by the cantons and by other federal agencies, however. 

Legislation Units I and II

Legislation Units I and II are charged with essentially the same tasks, i.e. supervising the legislative projects of other agencies and offices. This means that the legal merits of everything that is to be set down in rules of law at the federal level (articles of the constitution, provisions of primary and secondary legislation) must be reviewed by these Units. Among the points examined are: Does the decree have a sufficient legal basis? Is it in accordance with fundamental rights and constitutional principles? Is it appropriate within the legal environment? Is it logically structured and worded in an understandable manner? Does it possess inherent inconsistencies or does it contradict existing law? Does it contain superfluous provisions?

Both Units work closely with the Federal Chancellery (Legal Service and Language Services) when it comes to legislative and editorial aspects. Both are also members of the government's internal Editorial Commission.

In addition to overseeing legislative projects, Legislation Units I and II are also commissioned to draft advisory opinions on constitutional and administrative law issues. Generally speaking, they examine the legal merits of matters to be submitted to the Federal Council. In so doing, they function as the central legal service to the Federal Council and Federal Administration. In some cases they are also involved in the treatment of legislative issues in parliamentary commissions.

Legislation Units I and II differ only in term of their "clientele": Unit I is primarily responsible for tasks assigned to it by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), the Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA), the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports (DDPS) and various units of the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) (particularly police matters, laws pertaining to aliens, asylum law and regional planning) and the Federal Chancellery (e.g. governmental and administrative organization). Unit II is mainly responsible for tasks assigned to it by the Federal Department of Finance (FDF), the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER), the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC), various units of the FDJP (particularly laws relating to industry and the economy) and the Federal Chancellery (e.g. political rights).

International Human Rights Unit

The International Human Rights Unit deals with legal questions on human rights both at international level (Council of Europe, United Nations) and at national level (incorporating human rights protection instruments into national law). Its tasks include compiling and submitting Switzerland’s periodic reports on the UN Pact II (the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), and assisting in compiling and presenting reports on other international human rights agreements by the respective lead agency. The unit also plays a part in international organisations‘ committees of experts on human rights issues, especially Council of Europe committees, in preparing the conferences of the European ministers of justice for the head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police, and in supporting the work of the Swiss Centre of Expertise in Human Rights (SCHR).

The head of unit represents Switzerland at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), on the UN Committee against Torture (CAT), on the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and on the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

European Law and Schengen/Dublin Co-ordination Unit

The European Law and Schengen/Dublin Co-ordination Unit deals with legal questions concerning European integration. For example, the unit examines the Federal Council’s draft legislation and ordinances for their compatibility with bilateral agreements and European law, it compiles legal assessments and it participates in drafting federal legislation and parts of the Federal Council‘s messages dealing with bilateral agreements and European law. The unit is also involved in negotiations with the European Union and in federal working groups that support negotiations. In doing so, it collaborates closely with the competent federal agencies, with the directorates of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs responsible for European policy and law, and with the cantonal authorities.

On behalf of the FDJP the unit performs a co-ordination function within and between federal departments. It deals with issues concerning the evolvement, incorporation and implementation of Schengen and Dublin/Eurodac further developments, providing support in this area to the competent federal agencies. The unit also works together with other federal agencies in compiling Switzerland‘s responses in preliminary ruling procedures before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on the interpretation of Schengen and Dublin law.

Compulsory Social Measures Unit

Switzerland is currently processing a bleak period in its social history: the treatment suffered by children and young people as a result of compulsory social measures and forced placements outside their families prior to 1981. The Federal Act on Compulsory Social Measures and Placements prior to 1981 (CSMPA) entered into force on 1 April 2017. It forms the legal basis for reparations to be paid to the victims of these measures, in recognition of the injustice that they suffered, and as an expression of social solidarity. Individuals who believe that they qualify under the law as victims of compulsory social measures and placements were able between November 2016 and the end of March 2018 to apply to the Unit to receive the solidarity payment. The Unit is carefully reviewing the applications that it has received, and will decide whether or not the applicant displays the victim characteristics described in the law, thereby entitling them to receive reparations. In reviewing the applications, it is being supported by an advisory committee which includes individuals who themselves were victims. The processing of applications should be completed by the end of 2019, which is much earlier than provided for in the law. All victims whose applications are approved will receive the maximum sum of 25 000 francs.

The Unit also takes on a coordinating and supporting role in connection with the detailed academic analysis of the compulsory social measures and placements which took place in Switzerland, and supports self-help projects run by organisations representing the victims and others who have been affected.

Gambling Supervisory and Coordination Unit

On behalf of the federal government, the Unit bears ultimate supervisory responsibility for the enforcement of the Federal Gambling Act (GamblA) which entered into force on 1 January 2019.

Its primary supervisory task is to inspect and monitor the enforcement of gambling law. Inspections are designed to identify the incorrect and inconsistent application of federal law with a view to intervention where this is necessary. For example, the Unit reviews all organiser and gambling licence decisions made by Comlot, the intercantonal gambling authority. If it finds an enforcement error, it will first seek discussions with the enforcement authorities and instruct them to apply federal law correctly. As a final resort, the FOJ may lodge a public authority appeal via the courts to ensure that the law is properly enforced.

The Gambling Supervisory and Coordination Unit's remit also includes ensuring that gambling legislation remains updated and fit for purpose. Examples here include handling parliamentary initiatives, any legal reforms that affect the gambling sector, and international cooperation.

Furthermore, the Unit provides the enforcement authorities at both federal and cantonal levels with the knowledge they need to enforce the law properly and consistently. This is offered via a range of channels, such as the dedicated 'Gambling' web page, circulars, events, responses to specific enquiries, and (non-financial) support for third-party research projects on topics such as gambling addiction or illegal gambling.

Finally, the Unit provides the secretariat for the coordination body, the principal task of which is to promote cooperation between the federal government and the cantons as they fulfil their remits as they relate to gambling.


For the complete documentation see the pages in German, French or Italian.

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Federal Office of Justice
Public Law Division
Bundesrain 20
CH-3003 Bern
+41 58 462 41 37
+41 58 462 78 79