Voters could have a say on controversial Swiss anti-terror law

Those who support criminal or terrorist organisations could face up to ten years' imprisonment. © Keystone / Walter Bieri

A referendum attempt has been launched against legislation recently approved by parliament to prevent extremist violence. 

This content was published on October 7, 2020 - 15:39

Those behind the launch of the referendum on Wednesday include the youth wings of the leftwing Greens, Liberal Greens and Social Democrats, as well as the Pirate Party. They believe that the text of the new law restricts fundamental rights. The referendum committee has three months to collect 50,000 signatures to force a nationwide vote.  

At the end of September, parliament adopted the new legislation aimed at preventing terror acts. 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. 

Aspects that have caused controversy are counter-terrorism measures that target individuals who pose a threat but are not subject to criminal proceedings. As a preventive measure, they may be obliged to report to a police station at certain times, refrain from travelling abroad, be confined to a specific area or not go to certain places. Some of these measures could apply to Swiss residents as young as 12. It would also be possible to place potentially dangerous persons under house arrest for up to six months, renewable once. The decision would rest with the Federal Office of Police. 

In May, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights criticised the government's draft of the law. It warned that the new law could open the door to arbitrary deprivation of liberty. Others, including the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights and Amnesty International, have also voiced concerns. 

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