TIR disappointed by the decision of the Federal Supreme Court: The DBT is denied party rights in animal welfare-related criminal proceedings
For more than 20 years, the umbrella association of the Bern animal welfare organizations (DBT) has been exercising party rights in animal welfare-related criminal proceedings in Bern, thereby representing the animals' interests. However, in its ruling of June 14, the Federal Supreme Court denied the DBT its status as a public authority and consequently its party rights in animal welfare-related criminal proceedings. The Stiftung für das Tier im Recht (TIR) is disappointed by this decision and deeply regrets to see the Canton of Bern lose an important enforcement tool for animal welfare law.
June 29, 2018
With its ruling, the Federal Supreme Court upheld the decision of the court of appeal, which had already denied the DBT all party rights in animal welfare-related criminal proceedings in July 2017. The proceedings revolved in particular around the question as to whether the DBT is a public authority, given that, according to the criminal procedure code, it is only under this condition that it can represent the animals' interests in criminal proceedings. Like the court of appeal, the Supreme Court held that the concept of "authority" is to be interpreted narrowly. Based on this, it considers the DBT to be insufficiently integrated into a public administration, as it was free to select the content of its work and financially independent of the Canton of Bern in exercising its party rights. According to the Supreme Court there was therefore insufficient state supervision of the umbrella association so that it could not be termed a public authority and consequently should not have been endowed with party rights. The Canton of Bern is still free to provide an authority with respective party rights, however, the DBT, being an organization established under private law, has now irreversibly lost its party rights. Read the full ruling here (in German).
TIR is very disappointed with the decision and criticizes the view taken by the Federal Supreme Court because it is based on the notion contested in legal literature that the concept of authority is subject to narrow interpretation.
By denying the DBT its party rights in animal welfare-related criminal proceedings, the Canton of Bern has lost a long-standing and essential instrument for the enforcement of animal welfare law.
It is now up to the Canton of Bern to ensure that a public authority can continue to exercise party rights in animal welfare-related criminal proceedings. In June, the cantonal parliament approved an amendment to the Agriculture Act, according to which the department of economic affairs will be granted full party rights in animal welfare-related criminal proceedings. TIR and the DBT are calling on lawmakers to create an additional legal basis that would enable the DBT to resume its commitment for animals and a consistent punishment of animal welfare offenders.
We would like to thank the DBT, in particular lic. iur. Helene Holzapfel and MLaw Alexandra Spring, for their many years of competent work for the welfare of animals!