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Switzerland releases national plan to combat violent extremism

justice minister sommaruga
Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga announced the plan in Bern on Monday. Keystone

The Swiss government has unveiled a national action plan aimed at preventing radicalisation and violent extremism. Measures focus on early warning, reintegrating offenders, and training community figures such as teachers and sport coaches.

The planExternal link amounts to a five-year programme which will be funded to the tune of CHF5 million ($5.09 million), announced Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga at a news conference in Bern on Monday.

+ Read why Switzerland has been pushing for tighter terror laws

The philosophy behind the strategy is very much local and regional, with each canton called upon to establish a non-police authority who can work with radicalised or vulnerable individuals and try to bring them back to mainstream society.

Education is also a key battleground, and the plan recommends developing more lessons and projects linked to violent extremism in an effort to reach younger individuals.

“If you want to stop terrorism, you cannot wait until it is at your door and the police have to take action; you have to tackle it much earlier,” said Sommaruga.

Three-stage action

The plan is part of a three-pronged approach to combating the spread of violent extremism.

Earlier this year, the Federal Council announced its intention to toughen and make more precise the laws and penalties against such acts. And following Monday’s plan revolving around local and community prevention, the next step will involve measures to boost police prevention capabilities, which may involve more power over at-risk individuals.

Switzerland has so far avoided any large-scale attacks of the kind witnessed in France and Germany in recent years. However, authorities remain vigilant: the Swiss Intelligence Service says that it is tracking 550 people judged to pose a potential risk, up from 497 at the end of 2016.

Switzerland also works closely with European partners to share information and conduct coordinated swoops, such as the case last month when Swiss and French police arrested ten in a cross-border terrorism operation. and agencies/dos

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR