In 2014, Geneva authorities fined a woman $ 563 for begging and arrested her when she was unable to pay.
The European Court of Human Rights has accused Switzerland of fining a Romanian woman hefty for begging and then arresting her when she could not pay.
The Roma ethnicity in their late twenties was fined 500 Swiss francs (464 euros, $ 563 at the current rate) for begging in the streets in Geneva in January 2014.
When the woman, who is illiterate and has no work or social benefits, did not pay, she was remanded in custody for five days.
The court found on Tuesday that the sanctions against the woman were disproportionate to Switzerland’s goals of tackling organized crime and protecting passers-by, residents and business owners.
The woman had “the right, which is inherent in human dignity, to express her distress and try to meet her needs by begging”, according to the verdict.
Switzerland violated article eight of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the protection of private and family life, she declared, ordering the country to pay the woman 922 euros (1,118 dollars) as moral damages.
It is estimated that between 10 and 12 million Roma live in Europe, most of them in the eastern parts of the continent in countries like Romania.
With ancestral roots in India, the Roma emigrated to Eastern Europe in the 10th century and have been persecuted throughout history.
After the fall of the Soviet Union and the break-up of Yugoslavia, many traveled west, seeking to escape poverty and discrimination.