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11 Feb, 2022 17:30

Switzerland rules on swastika ban

Despite pressure from politicians and Jewish groups, Switzerland’s Federal Council refuses to ban Nazi symbols
Switzerland rules on swastika ban

The Federal Council of Switzerland has refused a motion to ban the public display of Nazi symbols, arguing that “prevention is better suited than criminal repression” in curbing the spread of extremism. Jewish activists called the decision “incomprehensible.”

The seven-member board, which serves as Switzerland’s collective head of state, published its decision last week. The council argued that, while “shocking” and “very distressing,” displaying hate symbols in public can “only indirectly affect human dignity and public peace,” Tagblatt reported.

The council said that such images could be illegal if displayed for “propaganda purposes,” a term that can be decided by authorities on a case-by-case basis, but maintained that prevention was the better approach in dealing with most incidents.

It also pointed to Federal Supreme Court case law, which finds it acceptable "that objectionable views are also represented, even if they are untenable for the majority."

The ruling angered the Swiss Federation of Israelite Communities (SIG), which represents Switzerland’s 20,000 or so Jews. “This attitude of the Federal Council is incomprehensible,” read a statement from SIG on Monday, which argued that because “People who give the Hitler salute in public or use a swastika already represent a well-established anti-Semitic ideology … To believe that they could be dissuaded by a prevention program is a massive misjudgment.”

The council’s decision came after it received three separate motions requesting criminal publishment for the display of “Nazi,” “racist,” and “extremist” symbols. The council’s final verdict was not the first of its kind, as it has shot down multiple motions to make the swastika illegal over the last decade. 

Switzerland’s neighbors maintain much tougher policies on Nazi symbols. Germany and Austria prohibit the display of such icons, with offenders in both countries facing fines or prison sentences. France bans the display of Nazi flags, uniforms and insignia in public, along with the symbols of other criminal groups.