European court sanctions Switzerland for fining Romanian-born beggar

The European Court of Human Rights has sanctioned Switzerland for heavily fining an illiterate Romanian-born woman for begging in Geneva.  

The unnamed Roma woman was handed a fine of 500 Swiss francs for begging in Geneva on  a public highway.

The jobless woman, who was born in 1992 and wasn’t receiving social welfare, was then placed in pretrial detention for five days for not paying the fine. 

However, the Strasbourg-based court said on Tuesday that the sanction was not proportionate either with the aim of fighting organized crime or of protecting the rights of passers-by, residents and business owners. 

„Placed in a situation of manifest vulnerability, the applicant had the right, inherent to human dignity, to be able to express her distress and try to remedy her needs by begging,” the  European court statement said.

It said Switzerland had violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights on protecting the right to respect for private and family life. 

The court ordered Switzerland to pay the applicant 922 euros for non-pecuniary damage. 

Begging is banned in most Swiss cantons or counties, but associations working with marginalized groups say the bans are targeting the most vulnerable.  


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