15 oct. 2011

ECtHR supports squatters, Rhino v Switzerland, 48848/07

About 100 squatters (mostly art students) occupied 3 buildings in the center of Geneva in 1988, and established the squat association “Rhino” (acronym for “Retour des habitants dans les immeubles non occupés” or “Return of inhabitants to non occupied buildings” in English). On 10/05/2007 the Swiss Federal Tribunal prohibited the association due its “illegal aims”, i.e. “subtract the buildings that they occupy from the market and speculation” (§ 45), and on 23/07/2007 police expelled the squatters (§ 28). However on 11/10/2011 the European Court of Human Rights adjudicated that the liquidation of the squatters association violated the freedom of association (Article 11 of the Convention).

The Swiss Government argued that the liquidation of the squatters association was necessary, since they had illegal aims and were implementing those aims with illegal actions (occupying buildings). It was necessary to forbid the association in order to re-establish the rights of the owners of the buildings. The ECtHR replied that there is no link between the protection of property rights and the liquidation of the association (§ 63).

The Court dismissed the argument that the dissolution was necessary in order to preserve public order (§ 64). Chairwoman of the squat association M. Kerchenbaum, secretary M. Pier and treasurer O. Connolly were awarded € 65 651 for pecuniary damage and € 21 949 to cover the lawyers.

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