CSOs fear ban on racist organisations will restrict freedom of association

 CSOs fear ban on racist organisations will restrict freedom of association
Environmental activist Greta Thunberg during an earlier Fridays for Future march (REUTERS/Ilze Filks via Gallo Images).


During the first week of September, 24 Swedish CSOs signed a petition against a proposal presented by the government in May 2021 titled “A ban on racist organisations”. As the name suggests, the proposed measure identifies a ban on organisations that carry out criminal activities to persecute ethnic minorities as the solution to threats of right-wing extremism. The proposal was supported by the Swedish UN Federation back in May 2021, which highlighted the presence of Nazism in the country and called on Swedish institutions to react more firmly to the activities of racist organisations.

However, the CSOs, of which Amnesty is the most prominent critic, do not believe that the proposed constitutional modification would effectively eradicate the spread of racism in the country and stated that further constitutional changes that would enable greater interference with freedom of association should not be introduced. As a matter of fact, legislation that criminalises the expression of racism in Sweden already exists, but its application has major shortcomings. From the CSOs’ point of view, authorities should tackle these shortcomings instead of modifying the Constitution which risks jeopardising the freedom of association of any organisation if applied with a different intention. Moreover, such a strong measure could lead to increased acceptance of racist expression and activities, the group of organisations said.

“Racism is a human rights issue that threatens the equal value of all people and the right to equal opportunities in society. But the inquiry's proposal is the wrong way to go. In the worst case, it could lead to the legitimisation of racist messages and organisations. At the same time, there is great and untapped potential in existing legislation to curb development and intervene against racist crime”- Anna Johansson, Acting Secretary General of Amnesty International Sweden (translated from Swedish).

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