Participation in a terrorist organization will be a new crime in the Terrorist Crimes Act, Parliament has decided. However, the law has been heavily criticized and opponents argue that it risks weakening legal certainty and freedom of expression.
“The Parliament said yes to the Government’s proposal to introduce a new crime in the Terrorist Crimes Act, participation in a terrorist organization. The new offence entails special criminal liability for anyone who participates in a terrorist organization in a way that is likely to promote, strengthen or support the organization”, the Riksdag writes in a press release.
It also mentions that “the penalty shall be imprisonment for a term not exceeding eight years” and that “if the offender has led the terrorist organization, the penalty shall be imprisonment for a term not less than two years and not exceeding eighteen years, or life imprisonment”.
It further adds that “Financing participation in a terrorist organization, publicly inciting and recruiting for the crime and traveling abroad with the intention of committing the crime will also be punishable”.
The law is seen by critics as a concession to Turkey to approve Sweden’s application for NATO membership, with only the Left and Green parties voting against it.
– There is a risk that this is another step on a slippery slope, said Gudrun Nordborg (Left Party) before the decision, expressing concern that doctors, for example, risk being convicted if they care for people classified as terrorists.
The Social Democrats, who also voted yes, see potential risks – such as Swedish citizens being convicted as terrorists for organizing fundraisers, renting premises or attending meetings allegedly linked to terrorism.
Representatives of Amnesty International and Civil Right Defenders, among others, go even further and worry that “the bill to criminalize participation in a terrorist organization risks weakening the rule of law, freedom of expression and freedom of the press, as well as giving other states an opportunity to put pressure on Sweden”.
“The proposed criminal provision is not clearly defined and risks covering acts that should not necessarily be punishable. For example, a journalist who has infiltrated a terrorist organization through racketeering, or a political refugee who has supported a liberation and resistance movement in his or her home country, could be prosecuted for participatory offenses”, they continue.
It is also pointed out that “human rights should never be taken for granted” and that “Sweden is not immune to developing in an authoritarian direction”.
“The rule of law is only as strong as the respect shown by the government and parliament for democratic principles such as the rule of law and human rights”.
The legislative changes will enter into force on June 1, 2023.