Europe rights court rules against Swiss in squatters case

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The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ruled that Switzerland had violated the principle of freedom of association when it dissolved a group of Geneva squatters in 2006.

The court ruled that the dissolution of the group was "disproportionate to its aims" and ordered Switzerland to pay 65,000 euros ($89,000) in damages and 21,949 euros in costs. The decision can still be appealed to the court's Grand Chamber.

The ruling concerned the 2007 dissolution of the Swiss Rhino association, whose members had been squatting in three Geneva buildings since 1988.

The Swiss authorities have long tolerated the practice and after years of unsuccessful attempts to get the squatters out of their property the buildings' owners asked for the association to be dissolved.

The request was granted by a local court in 2006, upheld on appeal in May 2007, and three months later the squatters were finally evicted.

But the European court said that the reasoning behind Rhino's dissolution -- the protection of the rights of others and the prevention of disorder -- "had not been relevant and that the interference had been disproportionate to the aims pursued."

The Rhino association had appealed to the European court over the issue of its dissolution and over the actual eviction itself. The latter case is still pending before the Strasbourg-based court.

© 2011 AFP

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