Both houses of parliament have voted to ban the al-Qaeda and Islamic State terror groups in Switzerland.
The House of Representatives followed the Senate’s lead on Monday and voted 184 to 0 in favour of the ban. It prohibits participating in or supplying the banned organisations as well as distributing related propaganda. Recruitment for the organisations is also illegal. The punishment for breaking the law is up to five years in prison.
The ban, labelled an emergency measure by the cabinet, extends and builds on previous bans of both al-Qaeda and Islamic State. The ban on al-Qaeda had been in effect for years via a parliamentary regulation but was set to run out and could not be renewed in its current form. And the ban on Islamic State that was quickly implemented in October was set to run out in April 2015.
Defence Minister Ueli Maurer said the ban was “closing loopholes that other laws left open”. The ban also covers activities abroad insofar as a jihadist fighter for one of the organisations could be punished in Switzerland if he is arrested here and not extradited. This provision also allows for the punishment of jihadists who return to Swiss soil. The penal proceedings will also fall under federal jurisdiction to ensure that cases are uniformly identified and assessed across the country.
Discussions continue over creating a general legal basis for the prohibition of terrorist organisations in Switzerland. The committee examining the issue in the House of Representatives has proposed including such legal groundwork in the Intelligence Agencies Act, which is set to come before parliament in 2015.
That legal change would allow cabinet to ban, on its own authority and without emergency law, organisations or groups that promote, support or encourage terrorist or violent extremist activities and represent a security threat. Today, only specific activities of such organisations are generally banned – rarely the organisations themselves.
The ban on al-Qaeda and Islamic State must still be made official in a final vote, which is largely a formality that is expected to pass both houses later this week. The ban is expected to come into force in January 2015.