Swedish Nazis Acquitted of Hate Crime Charges in Court of Appeal

The Nordic Resistance Movement, NMR, in Gothenburg on 30 September 2017. Mona Sahlin and Robert Aschberg are accused of being “criminals”. Photo: Shieldmaiden / Mostphotos

Today, the Court of Appeal for Western Sweden announced that all 14 people from the organisation Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR) were acquitted of charges of agitation against ethnic minority groups (hate speech). This was in connection with a protest in Gothenburg in 2017. The Swedish hate crime legislation needs to be reviewed to provide stronger protection, according to Civil Rights Defenders.

“The Court of Appeal’s decision proves that Sweden lacks sufficient protection against the hate crime agitation against minorities. Current legislation does not cover contemporary expressions of Nazism, which is very problematic,” says John Stauffer, Legal Director at Civil Rights Defenders.

The legislation exists on paper, but it is flawed in practice. Civil Rights Defenders argues that the Court of Appeal’s interpretation of the legislation is too narrow, since an explicit connection to Nazi Germany, such as the swastika and Nazi salute, must be proved in order to convict someone of illegal agitation.

“The 30’s and 40’s are in the past, but Nazism still exists. We need to be able to fight it, even if present day Nazis use new types of symbols and expressions,” says John Stauffer.

Legislation needs to be strengthened

Authorities need to review Sweden’s laws against hate crimes so that contemporary symbols and expressions of Nazism, such as NMR’s clothing, symbols and chants, constitute agitation against ethnic minority groups.

“We need a stronger legislation that prohibits racist actions and provides better protection for groups that are often targeted by NMR, such as Jews, Muslims, Roma and LGBTI+ people,” says John Stauffer.

An investigation is currently underway into whether racist organisations, and participation in them, should be unlawful. Civil Rights Defenders urges the Government to broaden the investigation and give the parliamentary investigation committée the mandate to examine if hate crime legislation should be strengthened, or to initiate a new investigation. 

Scares others into silence

Civil Rights Defenders argues that NMR’s expressions of Nazism during the protest in 2017 constitute illegal agitation, and we therefore filed a police report against several of the Nazis who were on trial. We will continue to advocate for stronger legislation in Sweden, as well as monitor NMR’s activities and work to combat these criminal acts.

“NMR’s activities are carried out at the expense of other people’s rights. They scare both organisations and individuals into silence, which is a threat to democracy. That’s why it’s important that they are held accountable for their criminal acts,” says John Stauffer.

About the Nordic Resistance Movement

The Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR) is a Swedish Nazi organisation. It bases its activities on a violent and non-democratic ideology. NMR calls for violence against ethnic, religious, sexual and gender minorities. Historically, such agitation has been closely linked to violence, persecution and even genocide being committed against minority groups.

Read More

  • Are you interested in learning more about what has happened since the 2017 demonstration in Gothenburg? Read more here.
  • Would you like to know more about the trial? Read more here.
  • Civil Rights Defenders filed a police report against several high-ranking NMR members after the demonstration in Gothenburg on 30 September 2017. Read more (in Swedish).
  • On 15 September 2017, Civil Rights Defenders appealed the demonstration permit that allowed the NMR to organise their march in Gothenburg. The route was subsequently changed and shortened. Read more (in Swedish).
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