Switzerland ordered to pay compensation to Roma beggar 

Swiss cantons have become increasingly tough on begging. Keystone / Laurent Gillieron

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

This content was published on January 19, 2021 - 12:20

She was sentenced in January 2014 to a fine of CHF500 ($563) for begging in Geneva on a public highway. The woman, who had no work and was not receiving social assistance, was then placed in pre-trial detention for five days for not paying the fine. 

However, the Strasbourg-based court said on Tuesday that the sanction was not proportionate either to the aim of fighting organised 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," said the European court. 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 for non-pecuniary damage. 

Begging is banned in most Swiss cantons, but associations working with the marginalised say bans are hitting the most vulnerable.  

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