Review of Public Order Act to strengthen Sweden’s security
The Government has decided to appoint an Inquiry Chair to examine whether Sweden’s security could be considered when examining permit applications and setting conditions for public gatherings under the Public Order Act.
Sweden’s security situation has seriously deteriorated. The Swedish Security Service has decided to raise the terrorist threat level from level 3 (‘elevated’) to level 4 (‘high’) on a five-level scale. This decision has been taken based on factors such as the recent Quran burnings and disinformation about Swedish social services.
The Swedish Police Authority examines permits for public gatherings under the Public Order Act. Under the Constitution of Sweden, legal limitations on the freedom of expression and the freedom to demonstrate can be imposed in consideration of Sweden’s security, but the Public Order Act does not currently apply the full scope of that power.
“The Swedish Police Authority may currently deny approval of a permit to hold a public gathering if public order or safety at the location in question is put in jeopardy. In these assessments, however, the Police cannot give consideration to Sweden’s security, such as a general risk of a terrorist attack. If Sweden is at war or at risk of war, the Government may, pursuant to the law, intervene and restrict where public gatherings may be held. There is therefore a gap, a security vulnerability, between the risk of war and public disturbances at a specific location. We are now ensuring that there is a basis for decision so as to be able act if the situation calls for it in the future,” says Minister for Justice Gunnar Strömmer.
The Inquiry Chair will submit proposals on how circumstances that threaten Sweden’s security could be considered when examining permit applications or deciding whether to cancel or disband public gatherings. The remit does not include giving consideration to amendments to the Constitution. The Inquiry Chair’s proposals must therefore be compatible with the provisions of the Instrument of Government on fundamental freedoms and rights.
“We want to safeguard the freedom of expression in Sweden. The basic principle is that it is and will remain permissible to express even such views that others perceive as offensive or insulting. This does not mean that everything is allowed. For example, rules on incitement to racial hatred set limits. Nor does it mean that the central government supports everything expressed under the protection of this freedom,” says Mr Strömmer.
As the mandate concerns constitutionally protected freedoms and rights, the Inquiry Chair will be assisted by a parliamentary reference group. The Inquiry Chair will also submit proposals on how new rules can apply temporarily, and how they can be evaluated before potentially becoming permanent.
The Inquiry Chair will be Director of the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention Mattias Larsson. The Inquiry will present its final report by 1 July 2024.