Third High-level meeting of the Ministries of the Interior - Fight against terrorism and organised crime to improve security in Europe 17 -18 March 2005, Warsaw (Poland) 

To be checked against delivered speech

Address by Terry Davis, Secretary General of the Council of Europe

Ministers [or their representatives],
Ladies and gentlemen,

Only six days ago it was the first anniversary of the terrorist bombings in Madrid on 11 March 2004, one of the landmark dates in the history of terrorism. The atrocities perpetrated by terrorists in Russia, Spain and Turkey last year are rightly seen, as are the attacks elsewhere, as assaults on the fundamental values of democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights, and indeed as attacks against the most basic of all human rights – the right to life.

As the fight against terrorism has become a top priority for all of us, we in the Council of Europe have made tremendous efforts to sharpen our tools in the struggle against this evil and to fill the gaps in the international legal framework. We began by adopting, in our Committee of Ministers in 2002, the Guidelines on Human Rights and the Fight against Terrorism, which specified the limits to State action in the campaign against terror, and which were complemented two weeks ago by the Guidelines on the Protection of Victims of Terrorist Acts. Also two weeks ago, the Committee of Ministers adopted the Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Information in the Media in the Context of the Fight against Terrorism, which reaffirmed the State’s duty to facilitate access to information and ensure respect for editorial independence even in times of crisis.

We all understand, of course, that guidelines and declarations are not enough unless they are backed by solid legal commitments. That is why the Council of Europe is drawing up a set of new legal instruments, both binding and non-binding, on a wide range of issues. We are currently preparing new recommendations dealing with the protection of witnesses, the use of special investigation techniques and identity documents, and a new Convention has been drafted to tackle money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

Most importantly, however, we are preparing a new Convention to complete existing international instruments on such issues as incitement to commit acts of terrorism and the recruitment and training of terrorists. We expect it to be adopted at the end of this month. The negotiation of this Convention has been far from easy and has shown just how complex it can be to enhance the efficiency of the fight against terrorism and at the same time to safeguard fundamental human rights, but it has also shown that it is possible to reconcile these twin objectives.

This Conference will also deal with the question of organised crime. Of course, terrorism and organised crime are distinct concepts. Terrorism relies on indiscriminate violence to change the established legal and constitutional order or change the policies of Governments. Organised crime, on the other hand, seeks financial or other material benefits. Most criminal organisations in Europe are involved in fraud and other forms of economic crime, production and trafficking in drugs, and smuggling and trafficking in human beings, but, they are not necessarily involved in terrorism.

Nevertheless, there are similarities and links, in particular when terrorists resort to organised crime in order to finance and sustain their activities, and there are also links and similarities as far as countermeasures are concerned. Tools such as the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime can also be very effective against terrorism. The Council of Europe has also developed instruments which can be used against both terrorism and organised crime. We have our treaties on extradition and other forms of judicial co-operation and our treaties on mutual legal assistance providing for more effective channels of communication, audio-video hearings of witnesses, cross-border observations, covert and joint investigations and witness protection. I should also mention our Convention on Cybercrime, which contains a number of provisions helping to prevent “cyber-terrorism”. This instrument requires urgent and the widest possible global adherence.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We cannot afford to wait for further terrorist attacks before acting. We cannot wait for another Madrid or another Beslan. We need to move quickly and translate European, United Nations and other international standards into action. That is why I call on this Conference to provide a clear message of support for the new instruments which, once adopted by our Committee of Ministers, will be presented to the Summit of Council of Europe Heads of State and Government here in Warsaw this May.

Of course, our efforts will not be limited to the adoption of these instruments. The Council of Europe will continue working in close co-operation with other partners, under the aegis of the United Nations Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee, whose Chairman, Mr Andrei Denisov, I met earlier this week in Strasbourg.

The role of our MONEYVAL Committee is critical in monitoring measures against money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Other specific monitoring mechanisms such as the COSTER - established by the Amending Protocol to the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism - will begin to operate as soon as the Conventions on terrorism are in force.

Also in the pipeline are projects dealing with the financing of terrorism, in line with European and United Nations standards and the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force, and projects aimed at boosting judicial and police co-operation.

Given the transnational nature of organised crime and terrorism, such projects will not be limited only to Council of Europe member States but will also cover neighbouring regions.

As I have said at the outset, terrorism is an attack on human rights. However, while countering terrorism we must be careful not to undermine human rights. The instruments which we have drawn up demonstrate clearly that we can develop effective and appropriate measures to combat the threat of international terrorism while respecting and safeguarding our values, and we have also shown that the Council of Europe, as a truly pan-European organisation, is best placed to coordinate action against terrorism and organised crime across our continent and contribute to worldwide efforts.

I look forward to hearing your discussions, and I wish this Conference every success.

Thank you.