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Swiss lawmakers should review draft legislation on police counterterrorism measures to ensure respect for human rights

Letter
Strasbourg 13/05/2020
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Swiss lawmakers should review draft legislation on police counterterrorism measures to ensure respect for human rights

In a letter addressed to the Chair and members of the National Council Committee on Security Policy, made public today, the Commissioner invites parliamentarians to review the draft Federal Law on Police Counterterrorism Measures in order to ensure that all human rights standards are respected.

In particular, the Commissioner mentions questions raised by the lack of sufficient legal safeguards as to the scope of the administrative measures which may be imposed by the Federal Police Office, outside the context of criminal proceedings, against a person whom it considers to be a "potential terrorist" based on a presumption that they might commit certain acts in the future. "The lack of a clear and precise definition opens the way to a broad interpretation that runs the risk of excessive and arbitrary interference with human rights," she writes, adding that the very term "potential terrorist" is liable to create stigma.

The Commissioner also underlines the seriousness of the administrative measures envisaged, in particular the possibility under certain conditions of placing a person under house arrest. "It seems to be very difficult to reconcile such a vague and serious measure, potentially lasting up to nine months, with the requirement for full compliance with human rights obligations, whereby any interference with fundamental freedoms must be proportionate and necessary," she points out.   

Further, the Commissioner notes the risk of serious interference with the freedom of movement, the right to respect for private and family life, as well as freedom of assembly and data protection that could result from the imposition of other envisaged administrative measures. Particularly problematic in her view is the fact that, apart from house arrest, these measures may be imposed at the discretion of the police through a decision taken outside the criminal justice system and the guarantees it provides and without the possibility of a suspensive appeal.

The Commissioner also expresses particular concern over the fact that it is planned to apply these police measures, outside the juvenile justice system and without proper legal safeguards, to children as young as 12 years, and in the case of house arrest, to children aged 15 years and over. Such measures fail to provide sufficient assurance of a framework suitable for children, including children considered to be at risk of future involvement in terrorist activities, such as those referred to in the draft law.