Communaute Genevoise d'Action Syndicale (CGAS) v. Switzerland

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European Convention on Human Rights

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In this case, The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that general anti-COVID measures prohibiting public events for a lengthy period amounted to a disproportionate interference with the right to freedom of assembly and association enshrined in Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The facts of the case concern the adoption of government measures to tackle COVID-19, on the basis of which public and private events were prohibited with effect from 16 March 2020 and failure to comply was punishable by a custodial sentence or a fine. The applicant, Swiss trade union association “Communaute Genevoise d’Action Syndicale (CGAS)”, complained that the measure deprived it of the right to organise and participate in public events.

Having established that there had been a restriction of the right to assembly and association, that it was provided by law and that it pursued a legitimate aim, the ECtHR turned its attention to whether it was necessary in a democratic society.

The ECtHR concluded that, in the light of the importance of freedom of peaceful assembly in a democratic society, and in particular the general nature and considerably long duration of the ban on public demonstrations, that the interference with the exercise of the rights protected by Article 11 was not proportionate to the aims pursued. It also noted that the domestic courts had not effectively reviewed the measures at issue during the relevant period. The respondent State had therefore exceeded its margin of appreciation in the present case and consequently, the interference was not necessary in a democratic society within the meaning of Article 11 § 2 of the ECHR. [Para. 90].

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