Switzerland Files Suit in ECHR Grand Chamber in Perinçek Case


BERN (Armenpress) — Switzerland requested that the European Court of Human Rights have the case of Dogu Perinçek referred to the Grand Chamber for review, the Federal Office of Justice (FoJ) announced. A review would clarify the scope available to the Swiss authorities in applying Swiss criminal law to combat racism.

In the Grand Chamber’s judgment in the case of Perinçek v. Switzerland, which is not final, the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority, that there had been a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The case concerned the criminal conviction of Perinçek for publicly challenging the existence of the Armenian genocide.
The ruling of December 17, 2013, where the competent chamber of the European Court of Human Rights determined that the Swiss courts’ rulings violated the appellant’s right to freedom of expression, is not final. According to the 43rd and 44th articles of the European Convention, in three months the sides may demand that the case is reviewed by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights. Employee of the Information Department of the Swiss Federal Office of Justice Folko Galie informed Armenpress that usually it takes for several months till the five-judges commission makes a decision if the case will be reviewed by the Grand Chamber or not.
If the appeal case is rejected, the verdict by the court becomes final and is transferred to the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers to control its implementation.

The European Convention on Human Rights provides for referral to the Grand Chamber in cases including those which raise a serious question affecting the interpretation or application of the Convention. In the present case, Switzerland’s primary interest is in clarifying the scope available to the domestic authorities in applying the criminal anti-racism provision laid down in the Swiss Criminal Code (Art. 261bis CC). Switzerland created this penal provision, which entered into force on 1 January 1995, to close loopholes in criminal law and enable the country to accede to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

On March 9, 2007, Turkish national Perinçek received a fine and jail sentence under Art. 261bis CC for denying the Armenian Genocide. The Cantonal Court of Canton Vaud and the Federal Supreme Court both rejected appeals against the judgment. In its ruling of December 17, the chamber of the European Court of Human Rights determined that the Swiss courts’ rulings violated the appellant’s right to freedom of expression.

Perinçek, the leader of a minor Turkish political party, had traveled to Switzerland in 2005 with the intention of daring the Swiss authorities to punish him for denying the Armenian Genocide. He brazenly called the Armenian Genocide an “international lie”. In response to a criminal complaint filed by the Switzerland-Armenia Association, Perinçek was tried and fined for racial discrimination by the Lausanne Police Court in March 2007. A Swiss Appeals Court confirmed his sentence, ruling that he had violated Article 261bis of the Criminal Code. The National Council (parliament) of Switzerland had already recognized the Armenian Genocide in 2003. Perinçek then appealed his case to the Federal Tribunal, the highest court in Switzerland, which reconfirmed his sentence.