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Switzerland's Courts and International Arbitration Landscape

Updated: Mar 5

Switzerland is a federal republic of 26 autonomous cantons and 2136 (in Jan. 2023) partly autonomous municipalities. Whilst the civil procedure is governed by federal law, the 26 cantons remain competent for the organization of their own respective courts. On cantonal level there are courts of first instance as well as courts of appeal, applying both – cantonal and federal law. Four cantons (Zurich, Bern, St. Gallen, and Aargau) have established Commercial Courts (Handelsgerichte) solely specializing in commercial disputes.

The Swiss Federal Court is Switzerland's highest court. It is the appellate body in civil and other proceedings. As a highest body it reviews the application of law by lower courts and ensures a unified legal practice. It is worth to mention that on federal level there are three courts of first instance - the Federal Administrative Court, the Federal Patent Court and the Federal Criminal Court, all dealing with specific matters and excluding the competence of cantonal courts in such matters.

Switzerland has been one of the preferred venues international arbitration, whether in ad hoc proceedings or in proceedings administered under the rules of the arbitration institutions. Since 2000, Swiss cities have been ranked first or second among the chosen venues for ICC arbitration proceedings worldwide. The country has one of the most liberal approaches towards arbitration proceedings and whilst a limited review of arbitration awards by the Federal Court is provided, International arbitration awards are only rarely overturned.

At Advokatur GTK GmbH we provide advise on Swiss jurisdiction matters and represent clients vis-a-vis all courts in the German speaking regions of Switzerland.

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