Insult: legal background in switzerland


Insult: Legal background in Switzerland

Some people do not have their emotions under control. It is easy to shout "Habasch" at the cashier in the supermarket or "Sauchog" at the policeman during a traffic control. Insults you should think twice about, especially in Switzerland. Insults are punished according to the penal code and punished with up to 90 daily sentences. How severe can penalties be for insults? How to defend yourself against the perpetrators? When does insult remain unpunished?

What is meant by an insult?

What you mean by an insult depends on the customs and mentality in a country. In Switzerland, the law defines disrespect or disregard of a person as an insult. Since thereby at the same time their honor is hurt, the insult counts in Switzerland to the honor injuries.

The Swiss penal code speaks of "insult" instead of "insult". In kind. 177 StGB it is defined as attack on the honor of the insulted person in word, writing, picture, gesture and activities. In contrast to physical attacks, the offense of insult is based on a predominantly subjective perception.


A distinction is made between two types:

Expression of negative value judgments

A special feature of this variant is that contempt is expressed towards the person concerned. This must concern moral honor.

utterance of dishonorable factual allegations

The persons concerned are confronted directly with factual allegations, these are not voiced via third parties.

Tip: Whether it is an individual expression of opinion or an insult, defamation resp. Defamation is often borderline and to be decided by the court on an individual basis.

Who can be the victim of an insult?

Abusive language:

  • living natural persons
  • legal entities
  • Deceased persons and persons declared missing

It is enough if it can be inferred impliedly to the person. It is not necessary to mention the name of the person to be recognized as a libel charge.

Difference between libel, slander and defamation

Not only the insult can be a punishable act, but also the slander or defamation:

  • Insult/abuse (Art. 177 StGB) is the expression of a derogatory and hurtful value judgment towards the person concerned
  • Slander (Art. 174 StGB) is the expression of a dishonorable and knowingly false value judgment to third parties
  • Defamation (type. 173 StGB) is the expression of an insulting unproven value judgment towards third parties

What forms of insult exist?

In Switzerland, the right to freedom of expression prevails. According to Art. 177 StGB makes a person liable to prosecution for defamation if his or her remark exceeds the freedom of speech. If the insulted person brings this to the report, the insult can be punished with a fine.

The boundaries between criticism, insult and defamation are fluid and often difficult to draw. More obvious are derogatory expressions, which increasingly occupy the judiciary. The Federal Office of Statistics counted more than 10,000 police-recorded offenses related to insult in each of the past few years. An almost 100% increase compared to 2009.

Insults in road traffic

Road traffic offers a special stage. Emotions quickly boil over and cause insults of all kinds. Those who do not want to put up with the behavior can file a criminal complaint. Depending on the court and the situation of the offender, the gesture with the middle finger becomes particularly expensive and competes directly with the finger pointing to the forehead. If damage is then added to this, it leads not only to a report of insults but also to a criminal charge.

Insults at school and at work

Schools and workplaces are increasingly becoming the scene of insulting remarks and attacks. Mostly women are the target. More and more often, however, it also affects men. And even for children and young people insults or Mobbing are no longer rarity. One speaks of Mobbing, if it concerns repeated honor injuries.

Offenders at the workplace can be superiors or colleagues as well as customers. If, for example, a superior makes insulting remarks about the performance and personality of an employee, this can be very stressful and hurtful. Attacks by one's own colleagues have a particularly unpleasant effect.

Protection is provided by the employer's duty of care, which is anchored in the Swiss Code of Obligations.

Insults across national borders

Not only in the closest environment insults are more and more often the order of the day. Insults also occur across national borders. The Swiss Criminal Code provides for the criminal offense of insulting a foreign state (Art. 296 StGB) and insulting intergovernmental organizations (Art. 297 StGB) before.

Insults from officials

Civil servants have to defend themselves against a wide variety of attacks every day. They are insulted and rebuked in word and writing, gestures and facial expressions. As soon as citizens feel unfairly treated or their misconduct has consequences, many an official becomes a bone of contention.

Mostly the police have to defend themselves against insults, but often it is judges, teachers or civil servants in public service. In particular, the number of insults to police officers has doubled in Switzerland in recent years. The inhibition threshold to give free rein to one's anger is significantly lower than it used to be. Respect for public officials has noticeably diminished.

Even if the official offense is an established concept, it is not a criminal offense. The insult of an official is punished like any other insult. The penalty is also the same.

In principle, only those crimes are punished more highly that have been committed with better knowledge. False statements that are made knowingly are more serious than if they are made accidentally.

What are the usual punishments for an insult?

Insults are usually punished with a maximum of 90 daily sentences. If the offending party has been carried away to several insults, a maximum of 360 daily sentences may be pronounced.

A daily rate corresponds to one thirtieth of the monthly net income and can amount to up to CHF 3,000 (Art. 34 StGB). The minimum fine is 30 francs per day. This rate can be reduced to 10 CHF per day according to the personal circumstances of the offender.

How much the daily sentence will actually be in the judgment will be determined by the court on an individual basis based on the economic and personal circumstances of the offender.

Non-punitive offenses

Negative value judgments that degrade people in their social or societal position, for example, as a businessman, politician or artist may not be prosecuted. If an insult to this person hits their social and moral level, it is punishable by law.

If the insulted person provoked the offender to insult, a penalty may be waived (Art. 177 StGB). This applies, if applicable. also for both parties, if the insulted person retaliates on the same level.

Even if the offender offers financial compensation, a settlement is reached, or a special concern of the offender is apparent, a penalty may be waived (Art. 53ff StGB).

Criminal insults

More and more often people let themselves be carried away to insults. This trend has also forced the Internet. Whether analog or digital-the courts have adapted with their jurisdiction.

These penalties were imposed by the Swiss judges:

  • The term "Seckel" earned a writer on the Internet the fine of 210 CHF in 7 daily rates.
  • "Bajasse" and "Schoofseckle" towards policemen resulted in 900 CHF fine in 30 daily rates.
  • Showing the naked buttocks earned the offender a fine of 1 000 CHF in 5 daily rates.
  • "Scheiss-Jugo" cost a police officer a total of 1 000 CHF, payable in 5 daily rates of 120 CHF plus 400 CHF.
  • Because of the exclamation "Nazi pigs" the caller was sentenced to 500 CHF fine.
  • "Scumbag" were worth 300 CHF to the judge.
  • Middle finger in insulting pose cost CHF 120 in 4 daily sentences.
  • For shouting "ACAB" (All Cops are Bastards) a fine of 900 CHF plus 200 CHF was due.

Tip: While fines can vary in amount or severity, the costs of proceedings, court costs and legal fees quickly run into several thousand francs.

How do I bring an insult to the attention of the police?

Anyone wishing to have an insult or abuse prosecuted must file a criminal complaint. This must be filed with the criminal authorities within three months of the offense (Art: 31 StGB).

The perpetrator can be named, but he does not have to be named. If he is not known, a complaint is also possible without concrete naming of the offender. If this is determined, no new announcement must be made.

Venue is where the offense occurred. If this was done in writing, it is the place of dispatch.

It is important not to forget the 4-year statute of limitations (Art. 97 Criminal Code). This begins on the date of the deed. If insults are repeated, the statute of limitations starts anew for each offense.

Conclusion: Insults can be expensive

In Switzerland, insults and abuse are taken very seriously, regardless of the medium or form used. If the perpetrator acts "only" negligently, he can expect more leniency in court than if he acts intentionally. Insulting public officials is prosecuted to the same extent as insulting citizens by public officials. Basically, you should not only consider possible penalties. Significantly more expensive are procedural, legal and court costs. In such cases, a frivolous "sheepskin" or "gumsla" can quickly become an exclusive own goal for several thousand francs.

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