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Constitutional expert: Terror law proposal problematic

Published torsdag 13 april 2017 kl 16.45
Constitutional expert: A risk of criminalizing ideas
(2:03 min)
Justitieminister Morgan Johansson (S) och utbildningsminister Gustav Fridolin (MP) på en pressträff.
Justice minister Morgan Johansson and Green Party leader Gustav Fridolin at a press conference yesterday. Credit: Adam Ihse

The red-green government is looking to strengthen anti-terror laws following last week’s attack in Stockholm, but some warn of unintended consequences.

Specifically, the government wants to explore the feasibility of criminalizing involvement with terror-listed groups, Justice Minister Morgan Johansson announced yesterday at a press conference.

Supreme Court justice Stefan Johansson has been tasked with examining the prospects for enacting such a law without violating Sweden’s constitution, which protects freedom of association.

Stefan Johansson is to hand over his proposal to the government in December.

In Sweden, it’s already illegal to participate in terrorism-related activity abroad, as well as to help finance such activities.

However, criminalizing involvement with terror-listed groups has thus far been considered a constitutional breach.

But Justice Minister Morgan Johansson is hopeful any potential conflict can be resolved.

“It’s our view that it’s possible to enact such a law, but [Supreme Court justice Stefan Johansson] will obviously take freedom of association into account when analyzing this,” he said.

A similar law was enacted in Norway in 2013, and has led to the arrest and conviction of several individuals linked to the Islamic State in Syria.        

Some, however, express skepticism.

“To make that law you have to say this constitutes a criminalized association and that’s a problem because how do you formulate what it is to participate in that association,” said Ingrid Helmius, a lecturer in public law at Uppsala University.

“Is it to be a formal member, or just go to a meeting? Do you have to have meetings?” If you criminalize it, you criminalize ideas,” she continued.

The government’s proposal has received broad support in parliament, with seven out of eight parties so far expressing their approval.

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