The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Penalty for participating in climate blockade does not violate a fundamental right

The punishment of climate activists for blocking an important traffic route in Lausanne VD does not violate the freedom of assembly and association. The Federal Supreme Court has dismissed the appeal of five people on this point.

The purpose of the sanction is to ensure public safety and order and to protect the civil liberties of third parties. The conviction is not a "political persecution".

In addition, the police did not intervene for several hours. The demonstrators had been able to exercise their right to assemble. The law enforcement officers had thus acted in accordance with the necessary tolerance recently recalled by the highest Swiss court, which must be exercised in the case of unauthorized non-violent assemblies.

The blockade of the Lausanne traffic axis in December 2019 was the actual goal of the activists and not just an indirect effect, writes the Federal Supreme Court in a ruling published on Thursday.

Do not leave the place voluntarily

The participants did not take part in the authorized demonstration on Place Saint-François, but blocked Rue Centrale for six hours with concrete blocks, pallets and their presence. Despite requests from the police, the activists did not leave and had to be taken away individually.

Because no prior authorization had been obtained for the Rue Centrale, the security forces would not have had the opportunity to take the necessary precautions, writes the Federal Supreme Court.

The Lausanne police court found several activists guilty of disrupting operations in the public interest, obstructing an official act, violating traffic regulations and failing to obtain a permit for a public event.

Partial approval

In the case of the five jointly judged persons, the police court imposed conditional fines of 20 daily rates each and a fine of CHF 200. The cantonal court of the canton of Vaud dismissed their appeals in 2022.

The Federal Supreme Court overturned the conviction of the complainants for failing to obtain a permit, as they were not the organizers of the event. It did not accept the complaint regarding the traffic violation.

With regard to the conviction of the five individuals for disrupting operations in the service of the public and obstructing an official act, the Lausanne cantonal court must make further clarifications. With regard to these two points, there is a lack of detailed information on the behavior of the complainants and the consequences. The Federal Supreme Court therefore dismissed the case. (Judgement 6B_1460/2022 of 16.1.2024)

©Keystone/SDA

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