Review of Public Order Act to Strengthen Sweden’s Security

The government of Sweden has taken a significant step towards enhancing the nation’s security by initiating a review of the Public Order Act. This review will explore the possibility of considering Sweden’s security during the permit and condition assessment for public gatherings under the Public Order Act.

Amidst a serious deterioration of the Swedish security situation, the Swedish Security Police (Säkerhetspolisen) has raised the terrorism threat level from an elevated to a high level, shifting from level three to level four on a five-tier scale. This escalation is partly attributed to recent incidents such as Quran burnings and disinformation campaigns targeting Sweden’s social services.

Currently, the assessment of permits for public gatherings under the Public Order Act falls within the jurisdiction of the Swedish Police Authority (Polismyndigheten). While the constitution allows for restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly in the interest of national security, the current framework of the Public Order Act does not fully address this scope.

Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer expressed, “The Police Authority can currently deny permits for public gatherings if there is a risk to public order or safety at the specific location. However, the police cannot consider Sweden’s security, such as a general risk of terrorist attacks, in their evaluation. While the government has the power to intervene and restrict public gatherings in times of war or imminent war, there exists a gap, a security vulnerability, between the threat of war and disturbances at a specific location. We are now ensuring that there is a foundation to act if the situation necessitates it.”

As part of the initiative, an appointed investigator will propose mechanisms for incorporating security-threatening circumstances into the permit assessment process. The investigator’s mandate, however, excludes the consideration of amendments to the constitution. Therefore, any recommendations must align with the provisions of the Constitution regarding fundamental freedoms and rights.

Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer emphasized, “We are committed to upholding Swedish freedom of expression. The fundamental principle is and should remain that individuals can express even provocative or offensive views. This does not imply that everything is permissible; boundaries exist, including regulations against incitement of hatred. It also doesn’t mean that the state endorses everything said under the shield of freedom.”

Given the implications for constitutionally protected freedoms and rights, the investigator will be assisted by a parliamentary reference group. Additionally, the investigator will propose mechanisms for introducing new rules with limited validity and methods for evaluating them before they potentially become permanent.

Leading this investigation is Mattias Larsson, the Director-General of the Swedish Crime Prevention Council (Brottsförebyggande rådet). The findings of this review are expected to be presented no later than July 1, 2024.