"The rule of law must be upheld, human rights be respected, and, where applicable, international humanitarian law be observed"

Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga. Check against delivery.

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to Interlaken to attend the Conference between the Members of the Global Counterterrorism Forum and the United Nations as well as other International, Regional and Sub-regional Organizations.

Terrorism is a crime unlike any other. It is not limited to wanton killing. Its true perfidy lies – as the term implies – in the spread of fear. Terrorists have an obvious goal: they want us to feel afraid in our daily lives – when we walk the street, take the bus or send our children to school.

Individual liberties can be enjoyed only in a safe environment, an ambiance of elementary trust and confidence. When terrorists viciously intrude, they not only attack the enjoyment of our freedoms. They try to destroy our sense of community and citizenship. They attempt to demolish the very foundations of a functioning society.

Terrorism has neither language nor religion. It is a complex phenomenon, and no one underestimates the threat it poses to us all. We continuously need to ask ourselves how we are to respond.

I would start with a German saying: Angst ist ein schlechter Ratgeber – fear is a bad advisor. An important element in the fight against terrorism must be to cope with the fears in our heads and our hearts. Resilience is essential. We must continue to live our lives, to exercise the very liberties that terrorists want to destroy. This is not easy, and there is nothing naïve about my saying it. It simply must be our collective determination not to concede to the terrorist threat.

Faced by terrorist acts and threats, governments and parliaments may be tempted to overreact, setting aside the legal safeguards that govern a democratic state. But let me be clear: The fight against terrorism must always be fought with the legal means used to combat all forms of crime. Unlimited repression is sometimes a cause of the evil which it is intended to fight. This may be true also in the context of countering terrorism. The rule of law must be upheld, human rights be respected, and, where applicable, international humanitarian law be observed. To deviate from our principles would ultimately favour the aims of terrorists.

Switzerland is committed to upholding these principles. We therefore decided to be more involved in the counter-terrorism efforts of various international organizations, especially the United Nations and the Council of Europe.

It was with Swiss involvement, for example, that the Council of Europe drafted its “Guidelines on human rights and the fight against terrorism” in 2002. This instrument adopts the principles protected and promoted by the European Court of Human Rights.

It is since 2005 that Switzerland – in cooperation with like-minded countries – launched an initiative aiming to improve the protection of human rights in the framework of UN sanctions against terrorism. We have submitted proposals to the UN Security Council with a view to strengthening due process guarantees in the framework of sanctions applying to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. In 2009, the Security Council decided to create the Office of an Ombudsperson for persons affected by the sanctions. Any person included on the sanctions list now has the right to be informed about the reasons of the listing as well as the right to submit a petition for delisting to the Ombudsperson.

Effective counterterrorism efforts reach into multiple fields. While repression will always remain an important part of the arsenal of combating terrorism, equal if not greater attention needs to be given to preventive measures. In this regard, great efforts must be undertaken to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism.

Failed or weak states lack the capacity to exercise territorial control, leaving a power vacuum that could be exploited by terrorist organizations. We are therefore supporting programs for strengthening the rule of law and criminal justice in several regions of the world.

More generally, the concept of human security makes the safety of individual human beings and their protection a strong priority in Swiss policy. A framework credit for peace building and human security of 310 million Swiss francs over the next four years has recently been agreed to by Parliament. 50 million are earmarked for a special North Africa and Middle East program. This will enable Switzerland to continue its high-profile policy of peace promotion, human rights and democracy as well as its migration policy.

As recently as last week, the Federal Council transmitted to Parliament the Message on Switzerland’s International Cooperation in the period 2013 to 2016. Switzerland’s international cooperation aims to prevent crises, conflicts and disasters and to overcome their negative effects on human populations; it also seeks to improve access to resources and services for poor population groups, promote sustainable development and support the transition to democratic and market systems. In the future, Switzerland intends to focus its support more strongly on countries and regions where state structures are fragile or lacking, because weak governments, inadequate legal security and corruption tend to exacerbate all other problems.

As we strive to discourage people – especially young people – from resorting to terrorist means, we must offer them alternative prospects. The Arab spring has demonstrated – if need be – that there are peaceful, participatory ways to take influence, to change basic conditions and to shape societies based on freedom and fairness for all. Liberal, democratic societies are certainly no guarantee for successfully preventing terrorist attacks. Yet they are our best chance to reduce them. After the terrible attacks on Utoeya Island last summer, the Norwegian Prime Minister’s response was: “Even more democracy, even more openness, even more humanity (but never naïveté)”.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As an increasing number of actors join forces to combat terrorism today, interaction, open channels of communication and coordination are of the essence. The Global Counterterrorism Forum is a promising new force. It intends to build global political will and to mobilize expertise and resources. It strives for a role that complements and reinforces existing mechanisms in fighting terrorism.

We need to ensure a holistic and internationally coordinated response.
It is for this reason that Switzerland has organised the Interlaken Conference. Its purpose is to strengthen the relationship between the Forum and the United Nations as well as other international and regional organizations in the area of countering terrorism. It seems timely and important for the Forum to explore how synergies with existing efforts can be maximized.

I note with gratitude the presence of representatives of many Member States of the Global Forum, representatives of the UN, of the UN Counterterrorism Task Force and its entities, of the EU and of many regional organizations. I know that some of you have travelled from far, and I particularly appreciate your attendance at this Conference.

I wish you fruitful and productive debates.

Thank you.

Last modification 23.02.2012

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