Sweden moves to tighten anti-terror laws: five key things to know

The Swedish government wants to tighten the laws applying to people who take part in or assist terrorist organizations. Here are five things to know about the law proposal and what it means.

Sweden moves to tighten anti-terror laws: five key things to know
Justice Minister Morgan Johansson pictured speaking in parliament. File photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

What is the proposed new law?

The government has proposed introducing two new laws: one making it illegal to be participate in a terrorist organization, and one making it illegal to cooperate with these organizations.

The laws would apply to people who recruit new members to the organization, something which is currently only punishable by law if these people were recruited specifically to carry out terrorist crimes. They would also make it a criminal offence to 'assist' terrorist organizations through giving them use of premises, arranging transport, providing them with equipment, or raising money for these groups, even if the person doing so is not a member.

“We will discover more cases of those who commit these crimes. It will be easier to map the networks themselves,” Justice Minister Morgan Johansson said on Thursday, after the law was referred to Sweden's legislative council for consideration.

The law would not however be applied retroactively, meaning that people who have previously joined terror groups would not be prosecuted. 

FOR MEMBERS: Sweden's new laws to look out for in 2019

How does it compare with existing laws?

Several existing laws deal with terror-related crimes in Sweden; for example, it's illegal to openly call for terrorist crimes, to travel internationally for terrorist purposes and to train or recruit people to carry out such crimes. But the idea is that new law would make it possible to prosecute people even without evidence of this active involvement.

Following the deadly truck attack in central Stockholm in 2017, Sweden's government and opposition made an agreement on measures to tackle terrorism. This included tightening-up of laws, and a government-ordered inquiry suggested that it should be made illegal to be part of a terrorist organization. 


What would the punishment be?

Under the proposal, the punishment would be up to six years' imprisonment for crimes classified as 'aggravated', and up to two years in other cases. Sweden's justice minister has said that involvement in Isis or al-Qaida, for example, would count as an aggravated crime.

These numbers are provisional, and may be changed before the law comes into force.

How do Sweden's laws compare to other countries?

Several EU countries have introduced laws similar to the Swedish proposal. In Belgium, more than 350 people have been sentenced for crimes linked to terrorism in recent years, and the most common crime is taking part in a terrorist group's business.

What are the next steps?

The proposal was officially presented on Thursday afternoon and submitted for review by the Council of Legislation. This is the body that checks draft bills before they can be submitted to parliament. Its decisions are advisory and non-binding, but the government often clarifies legislation based on the council's suggestions.

If the legislative council doesn't raise any issues with the bill's legal viability, Löfven has said the plan is to put the proposal to parliament relatively soon, with the aim of having the law come into force on August 1st. 

READ ALSO: Five key points from the Stockholm terror verdict

Sweden seeks closure as 'unique' terror trial progresses
Floral tributes to the victims of the 2017 Stockholm terror attack. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Swedish Green leader: ‘Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity’

The riots that rocked Swedish cities over the Easter holidays were nothing to do with religion or ethnicity, but instead come down to class, the joint leader of Sweden's Green Party has told The Local in an interview.

Swedish Green leader: 'Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity'

Ahead of a visit to the school in Rosengård that was damaged in the rioting, Märta Stenevi said that neither the Danish extremist Rasmus Paludan, who provoked the riots by burning copies of the Koran, nor those who rioted, injuring 104 policemen, were ultimately motivated by religion. 

“His demonstration had nothing to do with religion or with Islam. It has everything to do with being a right extremist and trying to to raise a lot of conflict between groups in Sweden,” she said of Paludan’s protests. 

“On the other side, the police have now stated that there were a lot of connections to organised crime and gangs, who see this as an opportunity to raise hell within their communities.”

Riots broke out in the Swedish cities of Malmö, Stockholm, Norrköping, Linköping and Landskrona over the Easter holidays as a result of Paludan’s tour of the cities, which saw him burn multiple copies of the Koran, the holy book of Islam. 


More than 100 police officers were injured in the riots, sparking debates about hate-crime legislation and about law and order. 

According to Stenevi, the real cause of the disorder is the way inequality has increased in Sweden in recent decades. 

“If you have big chasms between the rich people and poor people in a country, you will also have a social upheaval and social disturbance. This is well-documented all across the world,” she says. 
“What we have done for the past three decades in Sweden is to create a wider and wider gap between those who have a lot and those who have nothing.” 

The worst way of reacting to the riots, she argues, is that of Sweden’s right-wing parties. 
“You cannot do it by punishment, by adding to the sense of outsider status, you have to start working on actually including people, and that happens through old-fashioned things such as education, and a proper minimum income, to lift people out of their poverty, not to keep them there.”

This, she says, is “ridiculous”, when the long-term solution lies in doing what Sweden did to end extreme inequality at the start of the 20th century, when it created the socialist folkhem, or “people’s home”. 

“It’s easy to forget that 100 to 150 years ago, Sweden was a developing country, with a huge class of poor people with no education whatsoever. And we did this huge lift of a whole nation. And we can do this again,” she says. “But it needs resources, it needs political will.”