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Swiss parties in favour of banning Hamas

Masked Palestinian members of the "Ezz Al-Din Al Qassam" militia, the military wing of Hamas, hold their weapons and pose for the media during a march on the streets of Gaza City, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013. Arabic on headband reads, "No God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet, Ezz Al-Din Al Qassam brigade." (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Masked Palestinian members of the "Ezz Al-Din Al Qassam" militia, the military wing of Hamas, September 2013 KEYSTONE/ The Associated Press

Swiss political parties have spoken out in favour of the Federal Council's proposed ban on the Palestinian militant group Hamas. The rightwing Swiss People’s Party felt that the draft law did not go far enough in the consultation procedure. The leftwing Social Democrats called for clarifications, for example that parliament should have a say.

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The parties were unanimous in the consultation procedure that ended on Tuesday. They want to ban Hamas and classify it as a terrorist organisation in Switzerland. This would prevent financing and propaganda activities in the country.

The parties believe that Swiss territory should not serve as a refuge for those who would jeopardise global peace and stability. The People’s Party saw radical Islam and terrorism as the “arch enemies of a liberal legal and social order as Switzerland knows it”.

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The discussion was triggered by a terrorist attack by Hamas in Israel on October 7. Over 1,200 people were killed – including two Swiss nationals – and more than 250 hostages were abducted. According to the Hamas-controlled health authority, more than 36,000 people were killed in the subsequent Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.

On terror lists for years

In response to the attack, the Federal Council classified Hamas as a terrorist organisation. The group has been on terror lists in the European Union and the United States for years. In Switzerland, both the Senate and the House of Representatives had called for a ban on Hamas in the winter session by adopting the motions of their Security Policy Committees.

+ Hamas debate revived in neutral Switzerland

The ban, which is initially limited to five years in Switzerland, would also affect front organisations and successor organisations of Hamas and groups acting in the name of Hamas. They would all be considered terrorist organisations.

The People’s Party welcomed the preliminary draft of the ban, but felt it did not go far enough. It also wants to ban organisations whose aims and means are identical to those of Hamas. The party proposed an additional passage in the article of the law.

Extension “counterproductive”

The centre-right Radical-Liberal Party also supported the Federal Council’s proposal for a ban. However, it was against an extension to organisations not affiliated with Hamas. In the view of the Radical-Liberals, this would be “counterproductive”.

+ How easy is it to label Hamas a terrorist group?

In addition to the “comprehensive ban on organisations”, the Centre Party also “clearly” supported the threat of criminal prosecution. With the ban, acts of support for Hamas are punishable by up to ten years’ imprisonment. Individuals who have “significant influence” in the organisations are to be imprisoned for up to twenty years.

As the ban would have far-reaching consequences for the organisations, groups, and individuals concerned, the Federal Council wants to limit the law to five years. However, parliament should be able to extend this period.

Role as mediator in jeopardy?

For the Social Democrats, a ban on Hamas must not become a precedent for banning other organisations. The party also demanded a parliamentary right of co-determination should the Federal Council wish to ban Hamas-related organisations. Specifically, the government should consult the foreign and security policy committees of the House of Representatives and Senate before making a decision.

The ban goes too far for the leftwing Greens, who would like to define it more restrictively. The Federal Council would be given too far-reaching powers. The proposed law would have a serious impact on freedom of expression. Acts of violence by Hamas and the members of Hamas themselves could already be prosecuted under current legislation.

The Social Democrats also fears that the ban could jeopardise Switzerland’s role as a neutral humanitarian and peace policy actor. It therefore wants the text of the law to be amended so that Swiss diplomats and representatives of international and impartial humanitarian organisations remain permitted to contact all actors, including Hamas. The Greens also support this exception.

The umbrella organisation Switzerland-Palestine is against the draft law, as stated in a press release. Switzerland has a “diplomatic and humanitarian tradition,” and it would be counterproductive to deviate from this. “It would also jeopardise neutrality,” they said.

Adapted from German by DeepL/dkk/sb

This news story has been written and carefully fact-checked by an external editorial team. At SWI swissinfo.ch we select the most relevant news for an international audience and use automatic translation tools such as DeepL to translate it into English. Providing you with automatically translated news gives us the time to write more in-depth articles.

If you want to know more about how we work, have a look here, and if you have feedback on this news story please write to english@swissinfo.ch.

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