Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Switzerland: Adoption of Ordinance Banning Islamic State and Related Groups

(Oct. 17, 2014) The Federal Council, Switzerland’s Cabinet, adopted the Ordinance on the Prohibition of the Islamic State Group (IS) and Related Organisations on October 8, 2014. (The Federal Council Adopts Ordinance Banning the Islamic State Group and Related Organisations, Federal Authorities of Switzerland website (Oct. 8, 2014); Etat islamique [text of the Ordinance in French], Publications extraordinaires 2014: 08.10.14, Federal Authorities of Switzerland website.) The Ordinance entered into force on October 9 and will initially be applicable only for six months. However, by the end of 2014, the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports (DDPS) is to submit proposals to the Federal Council on guaranteeing the ban on IS and also on Al Qaeda and on organizations related to the two groups. (The Federal Council Adopts Ordinance Banning the Islamic State Group and Related Organisations, supra.)

The Ordinance not only bans the IS and any related groups in Switzerland, including “organizations and groups whose leaders, goals, and means are identical to those of the ‘Islamic State’ group or acting on its orders” (Etat islamique, art. 1), but also makes subject to punishment anyone who associates with such groups on Swiss territory or engages in any activities that provide material or human resources to support the groups, organizes propaganda campaigns on their behalf or in furtherance of their objectives, or recruits new members or encourages their activities in any other manner. Punishment for violation of the Ordinance is a sentence of imprisonment of up to three years or a fine, except where more severe criminal provisions apply. (Id. art. 2(1).) Where applicable, under Penal Code article 70, paragraph 5, and article 72, assets of an organization that contravenes the Ordinance might also be forfeited. (Id. art. 3; The Federal Council Adopts Ordinance Banning the Islamic State Group and Related Organisations, supra.)

Swiss fighters for IS could also face prosecution upon their return home for their actions abroad, as the Ordinance provides that anyone who commits the above-named offenses outside the country is punishable if arrested in Switzerland and not extradited. However, the Swiss Penal Code’s article 7, paragraphs 4 (excluding a person from criminal liability in Switzerland if he or she has been acquitted of the offense abroad, etc.) and 5 (prescribing the taking into account of partial sentences served abroad), will apply. (Etat islamique, art. 2(2); 311.0 Swiss Criminal Code, Book One: General Provisions, art. 7 ¶¶ 4 & 5 (Dec. 21, 1937, status as of July 1, 2014).)

The Swiss Federal Intelligence Service reportedly estimates that this year 25 Swiss citizens have traveled to Iraq and Syria, with at least ten of them having served as foreign fighters for groups including IS. (J.C. Finley, Switzerland Bans Membership in Islamic State, UPI (Oct. 8, 2014).)

While at present the Federal Council is not considering a federal act that would impose a general ban on Islamist/Jihadist organizations, it has indicated that it “is prepared to discuss solutions if related proposals are submitted, for example in the course of current procedures to introduce the Intelligence Service Act.” (The Federal Council Adopts Ordinance Banning the Islamic State Group and Related Organisations, supra; Loi sur le renseignement [Intelligence Service Act], DDPS website (last visited Oct. 16, 2014).)

The Ordinance conforms to the recently adopted United Nations Security Council Resolution 2178(2014), which legally binds member states to “prevent and suppress the recruiting, organizing, transporting or equipping of individuals who travel to a State other than their States of residence or nationality for the purpose of the perpetration, planning of, or participation in, terrorist acts or the providing or receiving of terrorist training, and the financing of their travel and of their activities.” (S.C. Res. 2178, ¶ 5, Press Release, Security Council, SC/11580, Security Council Unanimously Adopts Resolution Condemning Violent Extremism, Underscoring Need to Prevent Travel, Support for Foreign Terrorist Fighters (Sept. 24, 2014) [scroll down for text of the Resolution]; Finley, supra.)