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At an unspecified date in 1999, the prosecutor of the district of Zürich interrogated several agents of the embassy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPR Korea) in Zürich. Mr. Meier and his lawyer were present during the questionings.
On February 3rd 2004, the applicant was charged with defrauding the embassy of DPR Korea. On October 7th 2004, he was condemned by the tribunal of Zürich to 27 months in jail. His conviction was based on the statements of the staff of the embassy to the prosecutor. These prosecution witnesses were absent at the hearing of the tribunal of Zürich.
On November 25th 2005, the superior court confirmed the conviction and the sentence. The prosecution witnesses were also absent at the hearing of the superior court. On January 30th 2007, the supreme court of the district of Zürich dismissed his appeal. On September 3rd 2007, his appeal (6B 51/2007) was rejected by the Swiss supreme court (Federal Tribunal) .
On February 28th 2008, he filed an application to the European Court of Human Rights arguing that to admit testimonies of Korean embassy staff is a violation of article 6-1 of the Convention. He argued that the testimonies of the agents, who enjoy diplomatic immunity (art.31-1 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations) were inadmissible because these agents couldn’t be prosecuted for false testimony (art.307 of the penal code).
On June 18th 2013, the majority of the 2nd section of the Court ruled that his application was inadmissible on the ground that “the Court considers it is not necessary to answer the question of the admissibility of the testimonies of diplomatic agents” (54) absent at both hearings. Surprisingly, the section added that the government of DPR Korea may waive the immunity of its diplomatic agents to be prosecuted for false testimony in Switzerland, “if needed for a fair trial” (61).
The applicant was represented by Me Hugo Camenzind (Switzerland) who didn’t answer our request for comments.
In 1988, the association Rhino was formed to protect the housing rights of its members who were occupying 3 empty buildings in Geneva. Due to the shortage of affordable housing, the canton of Geneva has an administrative practice to evict unauthorized occupants of empty buildings only if the owners have a building or renovating permit. From 1992 to 2002, the owners entered into negotiation with the association Rhino and its members but failed to reach an agreement on the amount of the rent or the sale price of the building.
On April 4th 2005, the owners filed a request to dissolve the association Rhino at the tribunal of Geneva. On February 9th 2006, the tribunal ordered the dissolution under article 78 of the civil code on the ground that the objective of the association was unlawful. On December 15th 2006, the appeal court of Geneva confirmed the dissolution of Rhino and the seizure of its assets. On May 10th 2007, the federal tribunal rejected the appeal of Rhino (5C.36/2007 and 5P.34/2007). On June 26th 2007, the tribunal of Geneva froze the bank accounts of Rhino and requested the lawyers of Rhino to reimburse their fees to the canton of Geneva under article 57 of the civil code. On July 23rd 2007, the police evicted the occupants of Rhino.
On November 6th 2007, the members of Rhino and Rhino filed an application with the ECHR arguing that the dissolution of the association Rhino was a violation of article 11 of the Convention. On November 24th 2009, the Court communicated the application to the agent of the Swiss confederation which replied with his observations received on March 30th 2010. On May 12th 2010 the applicants submitted their observations.
On October 11th 2011, the 2nd section of the Court found a violation of article 11 of the Convention on the ground that the dissolution was disproportionate and not “necessary in a democratic society“. It awarded the applicants €65,651 for material damages and €21,949 for legal fees. The applicants were represented by Me Pierre Bayenet and Me Nils de Dardel both lawyers in Geneva. Me Pierre Bayenet is “satisfied” with the judgment who confirmed the right of citizens irrespective of their legal situation, “to organize in association to defend their rights“.
On March 10th 1999, Mr Portmann was arrested in a house in Urnäsch as a suspect in an investigation on a bank robbery. Unnamed Swiss police officers handcuffed his hands in his back, shackled his feet, and placed a hood on his entire head.
The suspect was transported, handcuffed, shackled and hooded to the police station of Herisau where he was interrogated in the same condition by an investigative judge. He exercised his right to remain silent during the interrogation and the investigative judge ordered his detention. Then masked police officers removed his hood and requested him to sign a transcript of the interrogation. Upon his refusal, they placed the hood again on his head. He was detained in a basement cell before being transported to the police station of Trugen. There police officers removed his handcuff, shackle and hood.
On April 4th 2006, the applicant press charges by filing a complain to an investigative judge. On May 3rd 2006, the investigative judge closed the investigation on the ground that hooding was “standard police protocol” for suspects considered “dangerous” by police. No witness were interviewed in the investigation. On July 24th 2006, the prosecutor rejected the appeal of the applicant on the ground that hooding was necessary to keep “the anonymity of the police officers“. He refused to examine the allegation of violation of article 3 of the Convention and to award legal aid to the applicant.
On September 19th 2006, Mr. Portmann filed pro se an application to the ECHR on the ground that the condition of his arrest and his detention were a violation of article 3. He added that lack of access to a tribunal and the lack of effective remedy were both a violation of articles 6-1 and 13. On November 3rd 2009, the application was communicated to the agent of the Swiss government.
On October 11th 2011, Judge Jočienė (Lithuania), Judge Björgvinsson (Iceland), Judge Malinverni (Switzerland), Judge Sajó (Hungary), Judge Karakaş (Turkey) and Judge Tulkens (Belgium) of the Court found no violation of article 3 on the surprising grounds that “the applicant could breathe through the hood“, “that he didn’t try to remove it” and that a “police officer was watching him almost at all time“.
In his dissenting opinion, Judge Pinto de Albuquerque (Portugal) found a violation of article 3 of the Convention based on the case-law of human rights courts and bodies (ECHR, CIDH, CAT, CPT, CCPR), on findings of the ICRC, ICRT and U.N special rapporteur on torture and on the facts of the case. He concluded that the hooding of the applicant was “unlawful“, “disproportionate”, “useless“, “objectively degrading” and an “inhumane and degrading treatment“.
Mr. Ernst Haas is suffering from bipolar disorder for the last 20 years. On July 1st 2004, he became a member of the NGO Dignitas in order to commit suicide. Then, he requested in vain from several psychiatrists to prescribe him the lethal drug pentobarbital sodium. On August 3rd 2005, the health department of the county of Zürich refused to deliver him this drug without prescription.
On November 17th 2005, the administrative tribunal of Zürich rejected his challenge of the decision of the health department. On December 20th 2005, the federal department of interior refused also to deliver him the lethal drug without prescription. On November 3rd 2006, the federal tribunal rejected his appeal and ruled that a mental health exam was required before prescribing the lethal drug.
On July 18th 2007, the applicant lodged his case to the Court arguing that that the refusal to deliver him the lethal drug without a prescription and a mental health exam was a violation of article 8 of the Convention. On October 16th 2008, the application was communicated to the agent of the Swiss government. On November 17th 2008, The NGO Dignitas submitted a brief amicus curiae to the Court (see below).
On January 20th 2011, the Court found no violation of article 8 of the Convention on the ground of the “margin of appreciation” and didn’t rule if States have a positive obligation to ensure that one can end his life with dignity. The appeal to the grand chamber was not accepted by the Court. The applicant was represented by Me Patrick Schaerz (Zürich) .
On November 29th 2009, 57.5% of the 2,709,287 votes were in favor of the popular initiative to forbid the building of minaret in Switzerland. As a result, article 72 of the Federal Constitution of Switzerland was modified.
Mr. Hafid Ouardiri is a Muslim living in Switzerland who is working as the director of the “Inter-Knowing Foundation“.
On December 15th 2009, the applicant lodged his case to the European Court of Human Rights arguing that to forbid to build a minaret was a violation of articles 9 and 14 of the Convention. He added that the lack of effective remedy was a violation of article 13. On May 11th 2010, the application was communicated to the agent of the Swiss government.
On September 15th 2010, the Swiss government replied and on November 9th 2010 the applicant submitted his observations. Most of the debate is on the two first questions on the quality of victim (art.34) and if all domestic remedies have been exhausted (art.35-1). The Swiss government is even refusing to examine the allegations of violations of articles 9 and 14 of the Convention (.34) and requested the Court to do the same. N.G.O European Center for Law and Justice submitted briefs amicus curiae to the Court as well as N.G.O Open Society Justice Initiative.
The applicant is represented by Me Georges-Albert Dal (Brussels), Me Bertrand Favreau (Bordeaux), Me Pascal Maurer (Geneve), Me Christophe Pettiti (Paris) and Me Pierre de Preux (Geneve).
On June 28th 2011, the Court found the application inadmissible on the ground that the applicant didn’t apply for a permit to build a minaret and therefore couldn’t be considered as a victim under article 34 of the Convention.
Mr. Skander Vogt was a Swiss citizen born in 1980. In 1995, he arrived to Switzerland with his sister and both were placed into foster care. In 1996, he was deported from Switzerland to Tunisia. In 1997, he was back to Switzerland.
On January 2001, he was condemned to 20 months in jail for minor offenses. But the judge suspended the sentence and ordered his unlimited detention on the ground of the “mental health” of Mr. Vogt to prevent “endangerment of others” under the notorious article 43 of the Swiss penal code. The applicant was then transferred 19 times between various prisons (EPO, Pöschwies, Thoerberg).
On July 5th 2006, the federal tribunal rejected one of his motion for conditional release.
On November 20th 2006, he submitted an application (see below) to the European Court of Human Rights arguing that his unlimited detention in a prison from June 2001 was in a violation of articles 5 and 4 of protocol 7 of the Convention and that the solitary confinement in “high security wing” and the transfers between prisons were a violation of article 3 of the Convention. He added that the refusal to grant his motion for conditional release were taken in violation of article 6 of the Convention. He is represented by Me Isabelle Coutant-Peyre (Paris).
On January 1st 2007, the article 43 of the penal code was replaced by the new article 64 of the penal code.
On February 27th 2008, his lawyer asked the Court that his application be dealt in priority due to the urgency of the questions raised (art.41 of the rules of the Court).
On March 11th 2010, the applicant is left to die in his burned cell of the prison EPO by laughing wardens and police officers. His lawyer informed the Court that the case is now being pursued by the sister of the applicant.
Today, his application is still pending more than 4 years after being filled and has still not be communicated by the Court to the agent of the Swiss government.
On October 22th 2008, Mr. Bertrand Rappaz was condemned to more than 5 years in jail for various offenses resulting from his activity as a farmer of marijuana. On March 2010, he was jailed at the prison des Iles in Sion.
A long time non violent and environment activist, he began an hunger strike to protest against the criminalization of the farming of marijuana and its lengthy sentence. Following a deterioration of his health, he made several requests for his sentence to be temporarily suspended for health reason (art. 92 of penal code).
He was temporarily released 2 times, and stopped his hunger strike. Once jailed again, he started a new hunger strike and was hospitalized in the penitentiary wing of the university hospital of Geneva.
On November 10th 2010, a judge ordered Dr. Hans Wolff, head of the penitentiary wing to practice forced feeding on the applicant but the doctor refused to carry it out.
On December 7th 2010, his last request (6B_1022/2010) was rejected by the federal tribunal on the ground that the “medical treatment” that he could receive will be the same whether he is detained or free. The tribunal didn’t take into account that the detained applicant was on hunger strike to protest against his detention and that Dr. Hans Wolff refused to carry out forced feeding. Moreover the ruling didn’t specify what kind of “medical treatment” the applicant could receive.
Swiss doctors and nurses associations already alerted that the forced feeding of a hunger strike patient is against the international ethics standard set by the World Medical Association (Declaration of Malta).
On December 14th 2010, the applicant filed an urgent motion under article 39 [fr], requesting that the Court order the Swiss government to temporarily suspend his sentence pending the decision of the Court. The applicant complained that the refusal to suspend his sentence was a violation of articles 2 and 3 of the Convention.
On December 16th 2010, Judge Christos Rozakis refused to grant the request. Surprisingly, Judge Christos Rozakis officially requested the applicant to stop his hunger strike thereby renouncing to his right to freedom of expression (art.10). Both decisions were unmotivated and the name of the judge is not revealed (see below). The applicant is represented by Me Aba Neeman (Monthey).
Following the decision of the Court, the applicant ceased his hunger strike and filed a complain for damages for his condition of detention in the penitentiary wing.
On January 26th 2011, Mr. Frank Schürmann the representative of the Swiss confederation for the ECHR announced the selection of 3 candidates for the election of the Judge for Switzerland (2011-2020). This Judge will be the 5th for Switzerland in the history of the Court. He will replace Judge Malinverni (2007-2011) who took office on January 19th 2007 after being elected on June 27th 2006.
According to the appendix AS/Jur(2008)52 of the report 11767 of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Assembly, the previous selection process in 2006 was not respecting any of the 5 principles surveyed. There was no call for candidature in the specialized press. The selection process was not made public and lacked any formal legal basis. Moreover, there was no assessment of candidates’ linguistic abilities, no consultation with civil society bodies and no involvement of a panel of independent experts.
Therefore the previous selection process in 2006 didn’t meet the criteria of fairness, transparency and consistency required by Recommendation 1649 (2004) even though the representative of the Swiss confederation claimed the opposite.
On January 27th 2009, a Resolution 1646 (2009) was adopted by the Assembly (PACE) underlining “the importance of appropriate national selection procedures in order to ensure and reinforce the quality, efficacy and authority of the Court“, asking that “the selection bodies/panels (and those advising on selection) are themselves as gender-balanced as possible” and warning : “In addition, in the absence of a fair, transparent and consistent national selection procedure, the Assembly may reject such lists.”
The selection process in 2010 didn’t meet again the criteria. There was no call for candidature in the specialized press. The selection process was again done in secret without any formal legal basis. Again, there was no assessment of candidates’ linguistic abilities, no consultation with civil society bodies and no involvement of a panel of independent experts.
The call for candidature (see below) attracted only… 12 candidates. 6 candidates were removed by the government from the selection process. The gender balance of the selection panel is secret as the whole process. Interestingly, Mr. Frank Schürmann the representative of the Swiss government refused to communicate any document relating to this selection process and the list of the 12 candidates.
Switzerland is home to 8,500 lawyers and 1,089 professional judges but the federal council didn’t select any lawyer as candidate. Instead the federal council proposed 2 lower court judges out of its 3 candidates in violation with point 4.5 of Resolution 1646 (2009) which states : “if possible, no candidate should be submitted whose election might result in the necessity to appoint an ad hoc judge“. In 2006, the only candidate who was a judge Giusep Nay received only 13% of the vote of the Assembly.
The 3rd candidate, Ms. Helen Keller seems then the only real candidate of the Swiss government. After M. Walter Kalin (Switzerland) resigned for an unknown reason, she was nominated by the Swiss government for the election of the member of the Human Rights Committee (CCPR). On July 28th 2008, she was “elected” without vote…by being the only candidate (press release from Swiss govt). After being again nominated by the Swiss government, she was “reelected” on September 2th 2010 as one of the 9 members among 18 candidates. Her mandate will expire on December 31th 2014.
MP Priti Patel declared at the House of Commons that the public have referring to the ECHR judges “disdain for the unelected bureaucrats in Strasbourg“. Judge Jean-Paul Costa answered in an interview : “Well it’s not necessarily pejorative to be a bureaucrat or to be unelected..After all high civil servants are unelected bureaucrats..When I shave myself in the morning, I see my face in the glass and I don’t see myself an unelected bureaucrat.“
Whether or not the Assembly (PACE) will reject the list of candidates submitted by the Swiss government will be a test on the pledged commitment to a “fair, transparent and consistent” selection process. It will also have lasting consequences on the legitimacy of the Court.
On April 12th 2011, Ms. Helen Keller was elected by 103 members of the Assembly on 318 representatives (only 160 were voting). It will be her first position ever as a judge. In an interview to SwissInfo, Judge Keller declared that she will resign from being a member of the Human Rights Committee (CCPR) which will trigger the 3rd elections in the last 3 years for the U.N post (4 years mandate).
On March 29th 2001, the police department of Neuchatel refused to the Swiss Raelian movement the authorization to put posters from April 2th to April 13th 2001 on the ground of article 19 of the police department rules. This article allows the police department to forbid “illegal posters” or “posters threating morals“
On April 22th 2005, the administrative tribunal of Neuchatel rejected the appeal from the movement. On September 20th 2005, the federal tribunal rejected the appeal (1P.336/2005) on the ground that the interdiction of these posters was necessary “in a democratic society for the protection of morals“.
On April 10th 2006, the movement filed a case with the ECHR (see below) arguing that the interdiction to display their posters was a violation of articles 9 and 10 of the Convention. On May 20th 2008, the ECHR communicated the case to the agent of Switzerland with questions to be answered within 16 weeks. On September 9th 2008, the agent for the government submitted his observations answered on November 4th 2008 by the applicant. The Swiss Raelian movement was represented by Me Elie Elkaim (Lausanne).
On January 13th 2011, the E.C.H.R ruled by 5 to 2 votes there was no violation of article 10 of the Convention on the ground that the Swiss State benefits of a “margin of appreciation” about the use of its public space and the State has reasonable grounds to forbid the posters (59). The Court didn’t examine the allegation of violation of article 9 of the Convention.
In their dissenting opinion Judges Rozakis and Vajic expressed that the movement was not forbidden in Switzerland and should be able to promote by posters its ideas (3.a) and its non forbidden website (3.b).
On October 26th 2010, the press office of the European Court of Human Rights has confirmed that all interim measures applications (art. 39 of the rules of the court) requesting a suspension of a deportation order (under Dublin regulation) of an asylum seeker to Greece are currently granted.
This policy will be in effect until a ruling of the Court in the case M.S.S v. Belgium and Greece (30696/09). A public hearing on the case took place on September 1st 2010.
None of the French N.G.O (ASSFAM, La Cimade , Forum Réfugiés, France Terre d’Asile, Ordre de Malte France and Anafe) mandated by the French government to provide legal assistance to asylum seekers in immigration detention centers answered our e-mail for comments.