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European court rules against Swiss anti-Covid demo ban

A demonstration in Bern during the early months of the pandemic, May 2020. Keystone / Manuel Lopez

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has condemned the Swiss government for its overly restrictive banning of protests during the first wave of Covid-19 in 2020.

This content was published on March 15, 2022 - 17:44
swissinfo.ch/urs

In a ruling published on Tuesday, the court said the ban on public demonstrations was disproportionate and a violation of the right to freedom of assembly.

It ordered the Swiss authorities to pay compensation of €3,000 (CHF3,074) to a trade union umbrella organisation from Geneva which was not allowed to organise a gathering on May 1, 2020.

The unions called off the gathering but filed a complaint the same month.

The ECHR judges said they did not underestimate the threat of the pandemic but that “in the light of the importance of freedom of peaceful assembly in a democratic society […] the interference […] had not been proportionate to the aims pursued.”

The court also said that Swiss courts failed to conduct “an effective review of measures at issue during the relevant period”.

The Swiss government outlawed all public and private events in mid-March 2020 in a bid to tackle the Covid pandemic.

As of May 30 the same year, the ban on gatherings was relaxed but limited to a maximum of 30 participants. A month later, the ban on public events was lifted although participants were required to wear a hygienic mask.

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