Leftwing violence and extremism rises in Switzerland in 2019

A demonstration by leftwing groups against police violence in the centre of Bern on December 31, 2019. Keystone / Anthony Anex

The number of violent incidents committed by Swiss leftwing extremists increased last year, according to the Federal Intelligence Service.

This content was published on June 23, 2020 - 17:56

Swiss intelligence officers reported a total of 207 incidents involving leftwing extremists in 2019. Of these, 115 were violent – up from 78 in 2018.

As in previous years, there was a broad spectrum of violence, including arson attacks, damage to property and attacks against Swiss security forces, the intelligence agency told Swiss public television, SRF.

Researcher Dirk Baier from the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) said leftwing extremists in Switzerland were especially active in larger cities and always attracted attention via campaigns.

Meanwhile, there were 29 incidents in the Alpine nation involving rightwing extremists, it said, down from 53 the previous year; of these, one incident in 2019 was violent.

The low number of reported rightwing incidents was probably because people who belonged to the scene had learned to “stay under the radar”, said Baier.

The intelligence service told SRF it had nonetheless reported meetings of rightwing extremists in mountain huts, on marches or at concerts. It is clear that they have connections to international networks, it added.

“But these contacts are more likely to exist between individuals than contacts between established structures in Switzerland and abroad,” the agency said.

In its annual assessment of the “threat situation” in Switzerland, the Federal Council (executive body) wrote on April 29 that the rightwing extremist scene “continued to behave in a conspiratorial manner and was restrained in the use of force”. However, it said people had access to large numbers of functional weapons, and some followers were trained in martial arts.

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