Racial discrimination: Yvan Perrin acquitted at the Federal Court

The Federal Court (TF) has confirmed the acquittal of former UDC national councilor Yvan Perrin in a case of racial discrimination on Facebook. The Neuchâtel public prosecutor accused him of having maintained contentious comments from third parties.

“The lack of knowledge, by the holder of the account in question, of the disputed comments excludes his criminal liability, in the absence of a specific legal basis,” the TF said on Friday in a press release. Swiss law does not currently provide a standard specifically governing the criminal liability of providers and users of social networks.

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The Public Prosecutor considered that the criminal liability of Yvan Perrin could be deduced from the existing principles of Swiss criminal law. For the TF, the obligation of monitoring and moderation could lead to “a very heavy duty of vigilance, since permanent and exhaustive, whereas no standard expressly provides for it”.

A share of responsibility

The High Court recognizes that by making his wall accessible to all public and by addressing political, sensitive and amalgamated themes, Yvan Perrin has created a risk that illegal content will be posted there. However, according to the TF, “this danger only exceeds what can be socially accepted if the person concerned is aware of the problematic content, which has been added to his page”.

During the hearing before the Cantonal Court in September 2021, the Public Prosecutor noted that there were only 35 comments on the offending publication. “Is it so difficult to put things in order?” declared Pierre Aubert. The Attorney General had considered that the defendant admitted a share of responsibility since he had declared to erase certain comments and that he had not done so with the litigants.

Also read: Yvan Perrin bounces back in politics… in Geneva

The Public Ministry had in particular pointed to the comment “The infection is spreading”, about an article on a worrying school in Lyon. For the Attorney General, it was an attack against Muslims and not only against the Islamist movement of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Missing legislation

The Public Prosecutor had requested a sentence of 90 day fines suspended for two years and the payment of the costs of the case for racial discrimination. Yvan Perrin opposed it and was acquitted by the Littoral and Val-de-Travers Police Court in July 2020, then by the Cantonal Court in September 2021.

The former national councilor is satisfied with the judgment of the TF. On the airwaves of RTN, he declared “that it is a victory for freedom of expression […]. The denunciation was linked to a Muslim association which aimed to silence opponents of this policy of Islamization”.

For Bertil Cottier, specialist in media law, also interviewed by Neuchâtel radio, this judgment creates an “unpleasant” situation because the holder of a Facebook account is not required to go and watch what is said on his account and to monitor it. “It would be good for parliament to address this issue and legislate.”

Judgment (6B 1360/2021)

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