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Article Sweden: Parliament Approves Law Allowing for Temporary 'Safety Zones'

On April 10, 2024, the Swedish Parliament voted 151–148 to approve an amendment to the Police Act (SFS 1984:387), allowing for the creation of “safety zones” starting April 25, 2024.

Under the amendment, “safety zones” (säkerhetszon) are defined as temporary zones in a defined area where the Swedish Police Authority (Polismyndigheten) may create a security zone because:

      1. Considering a conflict between groups, there is a significant risk of criminal activity that includes shootings or explosions in the area,
      2. the zone is of particular importance to obviate or prevent the criminal activity, and
      3. the reasons for creating the zone outweigh the infringement or inconvenience that it can present for the individual or for another opposing interest. (22b § Police Act, as amended.)

The law amends the Police Act and empowers the police to search persons and vehicles without search warrants and without a defined suspicion of a particular crime when the person or vehicle is found in public in a designated safety zone. (22a §.)

A safety zone may be created immediately following a decision by the Police Authority and may exist for a maximum of two weeks. (22c §.) Moreover, the decision to create a safety zone must be in writing, include a justification for the creation of the zone and the date of the decision, and be published on the Police Authority website. (22d §.)

A decision to create a safety zone may be appealed within two weeks of publication on the Police Authority website by a person affected by the decision. (22f §.) While the amendment does not define who qualifies as an affected person, the proposition specifies that an affected person includes, but is not limited to, a resident of the area and a person who has been searched while in the safety area. (Prop. 2023/24:84 at 38f.)

The Council on Legislation, which reviews a legislative proposal’s constitutionality and compatibility with legal principles as part of the legislative process, has criticized the law’s appeal process for its potential irrelevance: Because safety zone decisions apply for only two weeks at a time, by the time an appeal against the zone is heard by a Swedish court, the zone’s designation as a safety zone will likely have already lapsed. As a result, the courts would dismiss the case as “played-out.” (Council on Legislation review decision, at 6.) In addition, the law council criticized the government for designating the legislation as urgent, thereby departing from the normal legislative process, and for not providing a sufficiently long public stakeholder review process (remisstid).

According to the Swedish Police, they plan to hold information sessions for people living in areas that are likely to become safety zones. In 2023, the Swedish Police designated 59 areas as vulnerable areas, of which 27 were “vulnerable” (utsatta), 15 were at risk (of becoming especially vulnerable areas) (riskområden), and 17 were especially vulnerable (särskilt utsatta).

The new law constitutes a limit on human rights under both the Swedish Constitution (2 ch. 6 § Regeringsformen ([RF) [Instrument of Government] (SFS 1974:152)) and article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. (Justitieutskottets betänkande [Parliamentary Committee on Justice] 2023/24:JuU13 Säkerhetszoner, at 12.) Moreover, minors, who receive no special treatment under the law and can therefore be searched on the same terms as adults, are also protected under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Consequently, several stakeholders have voiced the need for either a sunset clause or a review of the effects the legislation. While the amendment does not include a sunset clause, the bill provides that the amendment must be reviewed three years after entering into force. (Prop. 2023/24:84, at 22f.)

Elin Hofverberg, Law Library of Congress
May 2, 2024

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Chicago citation style:

Hofverberg, Elin. Sweden: Parliament Approves Law Allowing for Temporary 'Safety Zones'. 2024. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-05-01/sweden-parliament-approves-law-allowing-for-temporary-safety-zones/.

APA citation style:

Hofverberg, E. (2024) Sweden: Parliament Approves Law Allowing for Temporary 'Safety Zones'. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-05-01/sweden-parliament-approves-law-allowing-for-temporary-safety-zones/.

MLA citation style:

Hofverberg, Elin. Sweden: Parliament Approves Law Allowing for Temporary 'Safety Zones'. 2024. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-05-01/sweden-parliament-approves-law-allowing-for-temporary-safety-zones/>.