Appeal Launched Against Nazi Organisation’s Permission to Protest

As the legal representative for the Jewish congregation in Gothenburg, Sweden, Liberties member Civil Rights Defenders has appealed against the decision to allow a neo-Nazi protest there in September.

The protest planned by the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) for September 30 coincides with the most important Jewish holiday of the year, Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), when unusually large numbers of Jews will move around the central parts of the city and visit the synagogue.

Right to demonstrate 'is not boundless'

We believe that the decision taken by the police authority to allow the protest should be changed to allow the neo-Nazis to demonstrate on another day and along another route, so that they do not march close to the Jewish congregation's synagogue and other central locations like Drottningtorget, Stora Nygatan or Östra Larmgatan. Due to the obvious risk of violence and disruption of law and order, we also ask that the execution of the appealed decision be stayed.

"The freedom to demonstrate belongs to our most fundamental rights, but it is not boundless and must be weighed against other people’s rights and freedoms," says Robert Hårdh, executive director at Civil Rights Defenders.

NRM is a neo-Nazi organisation with a clear anti-democratic ideology of violence. It was founded on the belief in racial superiority and on a racial hatred that is directed specifically at Jews, a hatred that in modern times has led to persecution and the Holocaust. To allow NRM to march near the synagogue during Yom Kippur is a violation of the Jewish congregation's freedom of religion and freedom of assembly, which are guaranteed by Sweden's Instrument of Government and international conventions.

A danger to people's lives

There is a risk that the protest could be so disruptive to law and order that it is not possible to guarantee the physical safety of the members of the Jewish congregation. The neo-Nazis' protest is also causing great discomfort among the members of the congregation, several of whom have personal experiences from the Holocaust. In addition, the protest march is a crime in itself – as incitement to racial hatred – in relation to the Jewish people, and the police thereby have an obligation to stop it.

"A protest permit can be lifted and should be refused if the assembly poses a danger to people’s lives and health. Against the background of how the Nordic Resistance Movement acts during its protests and their history of violent crime, we argue that the risk for incitement, threats, and violence is imminent," says Robert Hårdh.

Update: On September 25, the administrative court in Gothenburg announced that NRM's demonstration will get a different, shorter route than originally planned. This means that parts of Civil Rights Defenders' appeal have been granted.

"It is a success because we now avoid having the neo-Nazis marching in the direct vicinity of the synagogue," says Robert Hårdh.

The decision of the administrative court means that the route is shortened significantly and changed, away from the book fair and Gothenburg's synagogue. However, the court is not changing the date for the demonstration. In addition, the court has not examined the question of whether the protest constitutes incitement to racial hatred in itself.

"We are now about to sit down with the Jewish congregation and analyse the judgement, and then we will make a decision about a possible appeal. There are also more general aspects of the decision which, among other things, refer to Swedish legislation in relation to international law that we have to decide on how to proceed with," says Hårdh.