The anti-terror law is also intended to help against so-called “nonviolent terrorism”. The Greens have been defending themselves against this so far without success.
It is actually a question that needs to be clarified long ago, after all the people voted on it: Where does terrorism begin? It was one of the central points of criticism of the so-called PMT law, which was passed in June 2021 with 56.6 percent yes-votes. In the official language, PMT stands for “police measures to combat terrorism”, including new possibilities for the judiciary and the police to take action against political extremism more easily.
The not so clear yes of the population was a victory for Federal Councilor and Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter. She completed a real voting marathon and pointed out the necessity of the law with drama. Keller-Sutter mentioned the various terrorist attacks by religiously motivated extremists several times and made it clear that the criticism of the opposition will not come true. In several appearances she repeated mantra-like that the law was about violent extremists and the fear of a police state “Switzerland” was unjustified.
“Violence” quotes from the Federal Councilor
Video: watson/srf, telezüri, bk
The Greens rejected the law precisely because of this fear. They accepted the referendum, but grabbed Parliament and the Federal Council at their word the day after the vote: “The Federal Councilor in charge stated repeatedly and explicitly that a link with violence was obvious and that the law did not expand the definition of a terrorist activity as a target have.” The Green Group therefore called for the definition of terror to be specified in such a way that only terrorist activities with a reference to violence may actually lead to a restriction of fundamental rights.
The focus was on Article 23e of the new law, which has not yet come into force, but is already causing heated discussions today. Critics see the vague formulation as a danger for people and groups because of radical political activities could come under pressure if overzealous investigators or police officers want to take advantage of the new possibilities of the PMT law.
Art. 23e Terms
1 A person is considered a terrorist threat if, based on concrete and current evidence, it must be assumed that he or she will engage in a terrorist activity.
2 Terrorist activity includes efforts to influence or change the state order by committing or threatening serious crimes against life and limb or the freedom of persons as well or to be realized or promoted with the spread of fear and terror ..
Cynical, but inappropriate, comparisons with the Russian or Belarusian regimes were made in the comment columns. One person wrote on Twitter that the current definition of terrorism, which also includes “non-violent terrorist activities”, could come from Putin or Lukashenko. Only this time it was not real rule-of-law objecters who came up with such formulations, but the security parliamentary commission in the National Council.
At the beginning of the week, the latter spoke out against the clarification with 15 to 10 votes. A majority found that an “explicit mention of the use of force in the definition of terrorism would run counter to the purpose of the PMT”. Ultimately, this law was created precisely for this purpose: to be able to pursue non-violent terrorist activities. Because neither terrorism research nor legal experts agree on what is meant by “nonviolent terror”, the parliamentary commission added an explanatory note in brackets to the media release: it could mean “recruitment and propaganda for terrorism or the financing of terrorism”.
Critics of this vague formulation now fear that the law could one day, depending on the distribution of political power, be directed against a certain political camp. FDP National Councilor Philippe Nantermod, a party colleague of Federal Councilor Karin Keller-Sutter, fueled this fear a few days after the PMT “yes” when he scolded the radical climate activists of “Extinction Rebellion” as “a form of terrorism”. This movement has appeared in Switzerland in recent weeks through actions such as sit-in strikes or road blockades, which have the character of civil disobedience.
Covid skeptics demo in September 2021.
Climate camp demo on the Bundesplatz.
So-called “Corona rebels”, known for demonstrations and actions that are hostile to science and critical of pandemic measures, saw themselves in isolated cases as possible victims of abuse by the PMT law. People from the same political camp appeared violently, for example in an attack against a member of the government council or when attempting to break through the barricade on Bundesplatz. A year ago, in connection with the fight against terrorism, it would hardly have occurred to anyone that such organizations could reach the same level as the jihadist terrorists against whom the PMT law was originally drafted.
The Green National Councilor Marionna Schlatter could not be reached for a statement on Wednesday evening. However, she presented herself on Twitter as the author of the clarification approach and, after the defeat in the commission, ironically spoke of a “captivating honesty”, which now confirms that the term terrorism – contrary to the statements of Federal Councilor Keller-Sutter – has been expanded by the PMT became.
The Federal Councilor will have to put up with this criticism in view of her repetitions that the PMT is always about acts in connection with violence. Her arguments were based on the dangerous situation in Europe in order to be able to give the judiciary and the police new resources “before something happens” – said the Federal Councilor in various appearances. It benefits from the fact that, in disputes in the voting campaign, she actually also addressed the preventive effect of the PMT law in combating radicalization – and was therefore critical of the initiative of the Green Group.
It remains unclear how the vague definition of terror in the PMT Act will one day be implemented in practice. Keller-Sutter also emphasized in discussions that the legal means of the police are never precisely formulated in order to be able to intervene in new and unknown dangerous situations. She also recalled that if anti-terrorist measures were used incorrectly, the courts could be brought before them – they would then have to decide in individual cases whether a terrorist threat actually existed.