Switzerland to impose tougher penalties for violent protesters

Switzerland on Tuesday toughened the penalties for rioters and violent protesters, including increasing minimum jail time and toughening penalties for first-time offenders.

Switzerland to impose tougher penalties for violent protesters
A man is arrested at an anti-coronavirus protest in Bern. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The Swiss Council of States on Tuesday passed a proposal which would tighten penalties for certain public order offences. 

The changes have been made to reflect a ‘change in social values’, with the new framework targeting rioters who attack police, fire brigades and ambulances during protests. 

Authorities have called for a four-fold increase in fines for violence and threats against authorities. 

‘We will watch their backs’

Stefan Engler, of the conservative Swiss People’s Party, said the changes were necessary to show police and other authorities that they have government support. 

“Those who take the rap for our security can expect that in return we will watch their backs,” Engler said. 

Engler said attacks on police had been increasing and there was a need to respond to the criticism of police unions that perpetrators need to be threatened with more severe punishments. 

Minister of Justice Karin Keller-Sutter opposed the changes, saying that the current punishments were sufficient “as long as you actually apply them”. 

IN PICTURES: Inside Switzerland's anti-coronavirus lockdown protests 

The penalty for grievous bodily harm will be extended from six months to a year in order to punish public attacks which impaired the population’s sense of security. 

Harassment over the telephone will now attract a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail. 

Offences against commercial property will be given a minimum of six months. 

The current preference for custodial sentences to be given to first-time offenders will be changed, with the new law to frame it as a possibility rather than a rule. 

This was a controversial change. While it was supported by the SVP, members of the Greens said that it was likely to lead to repeat offenders. 


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Masks, tests and jabs: Can I deduct Covid-related costs from my taxes in Switzerland?

Switzerland’s tax deadline is just around the corner. Are Covid-related costs tax deductible?

Masks, tests and jabs: Can I deduct Covid-related costs from my taxes in Switzerland?

March 31st is the deadline for filing taxes in Switzerland relating to the 2021 financial year. 

Over the past two years, the Covid pandemic has seen a change in our spending habits. 

While we may have saved on restaurants and travel, we laid out considerable costs on a range of new expenses, including disinfectant, masks and Covid tests. 

As some of these costs are required by law, can they be deducted from your tax?

In some cases, expenses directly related to the Covid pandemic can be deducted. 

Masks, for instance, can be deducted as medical expenses in some cantons, Swiss tax specialist Markus Stoll told 20 Minutes

This depends on the specific framework for tax deductions related to medical expenses in that canton. 

EXPLAINED: What can I deduct from my tax bill in Switzerland?

Generally speaking, any medical costs paid out of pocket can be deducted. However, most cantons impose a minimum percentage limit from which these costs can be deducted. 

In many cantons, this will start at five percent of your yearly income in total (i.e. including other out-of-pocket costs like dental or specialist visits), meaning you would need to purchase a significant amount of masks to beat the threshold. 

What about testing and vaccination?

Testing and vaccinations however were largely free as their costs were covered by the Swiss government, which means associated expenses cannot be deducted. 

Those tests which were not covered by the government – for instance for travel abroad or for visiting clubs – cannot be deducted, Stoll says. 

“Tests for travel abroad or to visit clubs are not deductible” Stoll said. 

For a complete overview of taxation in Switzerland, including several specific guides, please check out our tax-specific page here.