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Repression Of Climate Activism In Switzerland

Above photo: Activists block entrance to Credit Suisse headquarters in Zurich. Photo by E. Leanza,

Repression of climate activism in Switzerland : solidarity needed !


Since 2016, civil disobedience actions in several swiss cities have targeted banks  (Crédit Suisse and UBS) investing heavily in the expansion of fossil fuel extraction, particularly “extreme” fossil fuels, such as canadian tar sands and fracking. The Swiss financial sector causes 20 times more greenhouse gas emissions than Switzerland itself. Between 2016 and 2018, investments of UBS and Credit Suisse totalled 83.3 billion USD. These are climate crimes, considering that according to the IPCC only a quarter of conventional fossil fuel reserves can be exploited if we are to avoid warming of over 2 degrees and the resultant climate chaos.

Until lately, the banks and authorities had tolerated repeated occupations, hoping to avoid negative publicity, but are now reacting more and more violently as the movement grows in size and determination. Already suspended sentences of several weeks were pronounced for two dozen activists who had staged tennis matches (a reference to Credit Suisse “ambassador” Roger Federer) in Crédit Suisse banks of Geneva and Lausanne last November. In Lausanne, activists already face costs of more than 20 000 CHF.

This July 8th, a hundred activists of the Collectiv Climate Justice, Breakfree Suisse and Greenpeace Switzerland and other organizations blocked all entrances to the headquarters of UBS in Basel and Crédit Suisse in Zurich, locking themselves to imposing barricades with arm-locks, bicycle locks around their necks, etc.

The reactions were impressive: Big echo in the Swiss media and a still ongoing discussion about climate breakdown financed by Swiss banks and civil disobedience. Repression also took a big step “forward”. The attorney general of Zurich announced that he would “make an example”. Police acted dangerously while sawing neck locks and making arrests. Once in custody, multiple abuses continued: the rights to a telephone call and a lawyer were consistently refused,  in many cases activists were refused water, their medicines and food and insulted (particularly the women). Others were strip searched and probed up to three times. After 24 hours, the attorney general prolonged their detention to 48 hours – gratuitously, as interrogations were all finished.

Activists in both cities immediately received suspended sentences – arbitrarily varying from 1800 CHF  to 9000 CHF  – or from 60 to 170 days imprisonment! They face immediately “administrative costs” totaling 64,000 CHF. Foreigners are banned from Switzerland for up to three years for the “threat” they pose to international relations.


Many activists are appealing these scandalous judgments and some are determined to go to jail rather than pay. Although of course repression remains very light, compared to the situation in so many parts of the world, it shows that the climate struggle in Europe is no doubt facing a decisive moment. With tens of thousands joining mass mobilizations, the fossil fuel establishment and the authorities are anxious to stifle rising disobedience, even if it entails dropping the mask of tolerance and democratic procedures.

We ask all our allies who realize the importance of a strong international climate movement to support us in our resistance in this new phase. Activists will appeal these sentences, and our organizations call on the banks and authorities  to drop these charges. Please support our petition, Swiss banks and authorities must be put under pressure !


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