Government seeks to boost police anti-terror powers

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga announced the plans on Friday Keystone

People not subject to criminal proceedings could still be held under house arrest if they are deemed a potential terror threat, under plans proposed by the Swiss government on Friday. 

This content was published on December 8, 2017 minutes and agencies, and agencies/ilj

It is part of a package of anti-terrorism measures to combat the spread of violent extremism that the government has been outlining this year.

The law on police measures to fight terrorismExternal link – which is now under consultation and which still needs parliamentary approval – should allow early intervention, a government statement said. Measures could be taken when a person is suspected of posing a risk, but there is not enough evidence to open criminal proceedings. The law would also allow the authorities to monitor recently released prisoners.

"At the moment police and justice officials have their hands tied in acting effectively against such people as long as no criminal investigation is under way," Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga told a news conference.

She gave the example of three Iraqis convicted in 2016 of supporting banned militant group Islamic State who are now free after being released from prison even though authorities still consider them a security threat.

+ Read why Switzerland has been pushing for tighter terror laws

Last resort

Stronger measures would only be used if the milder ones were not sufficient. House arrest is the last resort and would need a warrant, Sommaruga explained.

Police would also be allowed to track people deemed a potential risk by using their mobile phones or electronic tags. These measures would be time limited and those affected could protest in court.

Sommaruga added that the government would carefully balance the need for security against protecting the rule of law.

The Federal Office of Police, which would be in charge of the new measures, would also receive new powers to obtain data, which includes working undercover on the internet, under the proposal.

Three-pronged approach

The police measures are part of the Federal Council’s three-pronged approach to fight the spread of terrorism. On Monday it unveiled a national action plan aimed at preventing radicalisation and violent extremism. This followed on from June's proposal to tighten the laws to impose tougher penalties against terrorists and those supporting terror groups. 

The Federal Council also announced on Friday that it had opened a consultation on a law to make access more difficult to chemical precursors for explosive substances that could be used for terrorism purposes. This includes fertilisers, swimming pool cleaning products and herbicides. The measures would affect individuals and not, for example, farmers.

This proposal, like the police measures law, will be in consultation until the end of March 2018.

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