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Anti-terror law looks set to be challenged in a referendum

Armed police officers
Voters may decide on the right balance between protecting citizens against violence and safeguarding their rights. © Keystone / Ennio Leanza

Opponents of new Swiss laws to combat terrorism have gathered enough signatures to challenge the controversial legislation by referendum. They argue that the law violates civil liberties, particularly those of children.

The “No to Preventative Punishment” committee handed in 142,800 signatures on Thursday, enough to trigger a popular vote on the issue.

Late last year, Switzerland’s parliament voted through a legislative package to clamp down on terrorism and extremist violence. The reform introduces a provision punishing recruitment, training and travel with a view to committing a terrorist act, as well as financing activities. Those who support criminal or terrorist organisations could face up to ten years’ imprisonment.

Critics of the law complain that children as young as 12 can be subject to electronic monitoring and be banned from leaving the country. They argue that some measures in the law are draconian and go beyond the intention of preventing crimes.

The United Nations had also expressed concern that some aspects of the anti-terror legislation could infringe on human rights.

The law changes were brought about following recommendations from the government to crack down on growing extremist and terrorist-related offences in Switzerland. These have included several Swiss citizens joining jihadist movements and the radicalisation of youths and young adults.

The “No to Preventative Punishment” committee is a collection of left-leaning political parties and other organisations. Earlier this week members of several right-leaning political parties stated that the anti-terror laws were proportionate and necessary to protect citizens from extremist violence.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR