CIVICUS

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Sweden

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Last updated on 09.01.2018 at 12:34

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Sweden's leaders condemn extremist and neo-Nazi groups' actions

Sweden's leaders condemn extremist and neo-Nazi groups' actions

In the wake of protests by far-right groups in September, some of which turned violent, Sweden's prime minister and other leaders have spoken out strongly.

Association and Peaceful Assembly

Strong line taken against extremism

After the Nordic Resistance Movement’s (NRM) demonstration in Gothenburg on 30th September 2017, which included episodes of violence, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven publicly stated that Sweden should review current legislation to better counter extremist and neo-Nazi activities. In December 2017, however, instances of Antisemitism were reported, including the chanting of anti-Semitic slogans at a demonstration in Malmö and an incident where Molotov cocktails were thrown at a synagogue. 

On 20th December, the Prime Minister and other political leaders spoke at a demonstration in Stockholm about the need to combat such discriminatory and harmful rhetoric and actions. To that end, Löfven stated that:

"Those who try to legitimize violence and hatred to achieve their goals – whether they are Nazis, religious extremists or left-wing extremists – will be inexorably condemned".

A speech by the Minister of Culture during the demonstration was interrupted by a heckler from the NRM, and five people were reportedly removed from the area and one arrested for attempting to disrupt the demonstration.

Protest against cutbacks

Thousands of people staged demonstrations across Sweden on 2nd December 2017 to protest recent cuts in the budget for personal assistance to people with disabilities. The protests were held in at least 25 towns and cities across the country. In Stockholm alone, at least 1,000 people gathered, said Maria Persdotter, chair of the Swedish National Association for Disabled Children and Young People which co-organised the demonstrations.

Association

Freedom of association is guaranteed by law and in practice. Everyone, individuals and legal persons, national and non-national, can freely exercise the right to form and join associations, foundations and other types of non-governmental organisations to attain a particular objective.

Freedom of association is guaranteed by law and in practice. Everyone, individuals and legal persons, national and non-national, can freely exercise the right to form and join associations, foundations and other types of non-governmental organisations to attain a particular objective. There is no law regulating the existence or operations of non-profit associations. These operations are entirely guided by self-observed good practice. The requirements to register and operate an organisation are minimal and proportionate to the size and scope of activities of the organisation. Registration is not mandatory, unless the value of an association's financial dealings is over a certain tax registration threshold. If the association wishes to have an organisational ID number, which can be useful in contacts with authorities and to access funding, it will also need to register with tax authorities. The establishment of a foundation requires registration but rules allow for easy and swift procedures. There are no practices of invasive supervisory oversight by governmental entities. Civil society organisations operate independently without state interference in their internal governance and activities, both inside and outside the country. Organisations can seek and secure financial resources, including from foreign sources, and there are no restrictions on joining international networks or federations.


Peaceful Assembly

The rights to assemble and protest are constitutionally protected. These rights may be limited only as prescribed by law, mainly on the grounds of public order and safety and only if necessary and proportionate.

The rights to assemble and protest are constitutionally protected. These rights may be limited only as prescribed by law, mainly on the grounds of public order and safety and only if necessary and proportionate. The legal framework establishes that either notification or formal authorisation for public assemblies is needed depending on the type of event. Prior authorisation is required for most of the cases and a week notice must be given to the police. Any restriction can be appealed to administrative courts. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen, who considers the issues relating to facilitation and protection of public assemblies, raised a number of concerns regarding the police conduct in moving protestors to a different location, halting protests without legal justification and terminating assemblies based on incidents of violence with some participants without first taking action against those individuals, for example in situations of counter-assemblies. Media is guaranteed access to public assemblies. Freedom of assembly has been in the news lately with demonstrations of far-right activists. Two incidents were reported in January 2016, one involving the attack by far-right demonstrators against onlookers and another one on the conduct of police during a non-authorised demonstration. In February, a man was shot during a pro-Kurdish demonstration.

Expression

The right to freedom of expression is guaranteed by the law and practice. It may be subject to restrictions under the hate-speech laws when statements incite to discrimination or violence. This applies also to online expression.

The right to freedom of expression is guaranteed in law and practice. It may be subject to restrictions under hate-speech laws when statements are designed to incite discrimination or violence. This limitation also applies to online expression and the police now have additional powers to identify internet users in order to combat online hate crimes. Internet service providers are also subject to data retention requirements for the purpose of helping the police to track down criminal suspects online. Media are independent and diverse. Most are privately owned. The Swedish law offers a sound protection to media under the Freedom of the Press Act of 1766 and the Fundamental Law of Freedom of Expression of 1991. There are no cases reported where individuals were persecuted for critical speech. A recent poll showed that one third of the journalists had felt threatened in the last year. The Swedish Minister of Culture and Media called a meeting in April this year to discuss threats and violence against journalists, and announced a national action plan on press freedom. Recent events contributed to triggering a debate on where the limits to freedom of expression should be set, in particular when religion and immigration are concerned.