The Lausanne-based Federal Court has ruled it was wrong for a lower regional court to stop a Swiss Muslim organisation from holding its annual meeting in the city of Fribourg last year.
Confirming a complaint by the Islamic Central Council (IZRS/CCIS) against the previous verdict, the Federal Court said on Wednesday that there was no reason to ban the meeting.
The Sarine senior regional official Carl-Alex Ridoré had initially refused to provide the necessary authorisation for the IZRS/CCIS gathering planned on November 29, 2014, at Granges-Paccot in Fribourg due to serious “security risks”. His position was reportedly taken based on the tense international climate and fears that participants might break the law. This had been supported by the Fribourg cantonal court.
The Federal Court said this previous decision lacked proportionality and that “the lower court did almost everything wrong that there possibly was to do wrong”.
Although the date for the Central Council's meeting in 2014 has long since passed, Switzerland’s top court said it wanted to advocate on behalf of the group in this instance, as it believed that the same or at least a similar problem could easily occur in the future.
The lower court had used a law on the hotel and restaurant industry and a general police law to deny a permit for the event. The Federal Court however made clear that this approach had been unhelpful, as the meeting was not associated with this industry. As for using a ban on assembly under the general police law, the court said that this should only have been used when the proposed gathering posed a specific, serious danger.
A permit was not actually required for the event with 2,000 invited guests, as it was to be held on private property. Cantonal law also cited by the Fribourg court was not relevant to this case, as it only applied to public meetings.
The council had already held an annual meeting in Fribourg in 2012, when 15 people gathered to protest, but the court said there had been no disruption to public order.
The Islamic Central Council welcomed the verdict in a statement on their website, saying the first court’s decision was based on “thin” arguments and gave “an impression of arbitrariness”. They added that the Federal Court’s verdict strengthened the fundamental rights to free speech and assembly. The next annual conference is planned for early 2016.
swissinfo.ch and agencies