The 2016 OSCE-wide Counter-Terrorism Conference

Berlin, 31 May - 1 June 2016



Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,


Da’esh continues to be a major threat. It directed and inspired horrible attacks in Europe and elsewhere. Many have been killed, wounded and traumatised. Many wonder whether they are still safe in going about their everyday lives.

But Da’esh can never win. They can never defeat solid democracies based on the rule of law and human rights. However, although they cannot defeat us, there is a risk that we defeat ourselves.  By responding to fear by lowering our standards. By setting aside essential requirements of the rule of law and human rights.

The Council of Europe believes we should not fall into this trap.

Therefore, the Council of Europe assists its 47 member States in their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorism while fully respecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

In May 2015, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted an Action Plan on the “Fight against violent extremism and radicalisation leading to terrorism” pursuing two crucial objectives:

  • to strengthen the legal framework against terrorism and violent extremism; and,
  • to prevent violent radicalisation through concrete measures in the public sector, in particular in schools, in prisons, and on the Internet.

Mr Jean-Paul Laborde, Assistant Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Executive, reminded us recently that it is essential not to confuse the fight against terrorism with the fight against violent extremism and radicalisation.  Both are needed, and very much complementary, but legal measures and policies must be specific in each case.

In record time, the Council of Europe adopted the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism, which was opened for signature in Riga on October 2015. It is the first legally binding text to follow up the UNSC Resolution 2178 (2014), urging member States to take measures aimed at preventing and curbing the flow of foreign terrorist fighters to conflict zones. To date, the Riga Protocol already counts 30 signatures, including the European Union. 

The Riga Protocol aims at the key objective of any counter-terrorist strategy: prevention. Less foreign terrorist fighters leaving means less foreign terrorist fighters killing innocent people and less returning and posing a threat.

The terrorist attacks committed in Brussels, in Istanbul and in Paris were perpetrated by foreign terrorist fighters, having returned after a period of training in Syria and already known by European police forces.

Information was available, but was not exchanged.

For this reason, the Riga Protocol provides for the establishment of a 24/7 Foreign Terrorist Fighters Network of Contact Points for the exchange of police information in real time (Art. 7 of the Riga Protocol). Taking as its inspiration Operative Paragraph 3 of the UNSC Resolution, the Network is conceived as a light, simple and cost-effective mechanism for enhancing the response capacity of the Signatories and for improving co-operation and co-ordination within them. Indeed, the contact points will be connected in a systematic manner, on a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week basis.

Two weeks ago, meeting in Sofia (Bulgaria), the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Council of Europe acknowledged the necessity and the urgency of the Network and called on member States to expedite the designation of national contact points, pending the entry into force of the Riga Protocol. I will not go into the highly technical details here; we will discuss those in the course of the side-event taking place at 13.50 this afternoon in the Adenauer Saal.

We expect the 24/7 Network to bring real added value. However, we understand that preventing the travelling of foreign terrorist fighters will not be sufficient.

Terrorists have exploited other ways to endanger us all the way into our homes and one of the most successful has proven to be the Internet. Websites, social media and other internet services are abused for terrorist purposes, in particular online radicalisation and recruitment, as well as the provision of online training for terrorism.

The Council of Europe is therefore urgently addressing questions such as:

How much mass surveillance should we accept? How far should encryption go? How effective is the blocking and taking down of websites and social media accounts? How can we rapidly identify the entities behind the IP addresses used for terrorist purposes?

We believe that answers to these questions can only prove effective if respectful of human rights and the rule of law.

Co-operation with the private sector is essential. Therefore, the Council of Europe Strategy on Internet Governance (2016 – 2019) foresees the establishment of a platform for co-operation between governments and major Internet companies

Next to the Internet, prisons are a major catalyst for radicalisation. Therefore, in March 2016, the Committee of Ministers adopted the Guidelines for prison and probation services regarding radicalisation and violent extremism. This text recommends measures to be taken by prison and probation services in order to prevent persons under their responsibility from being radicalised, as well as to detect, manage and resettle radicalised persons. A practical handbook for prison staff is now being prepared on the basis of these Guidelines.

Moreover, standard–setting texts currently underway include:

  1. the drafting of a recommendation on “terrorists acting alone”, providing guidelines to member States on how to efficiently prevent and suppress this particular modus operandi of terrorism; and,
  2. the update of a Council of Europe Recommendation on ‘special investigation techniques’ in relation to serious crime including acts of terrorism, covering such areas as modern financial and cyber investigations, conditions of use of SIT, operational guidelines and international cooperation;
  3. a criminal law Convention on offenses relating to cultural property.

One subject area we are tackling is how to prevent and counter radicalisation among women, inter alia by analysing the organisational role of women in Da’esh. Therefore, I am particularly glad that the OSCE, which has been at the forefront of the international dialogue on this issue, has dedicated this afternoon’s session to the analysis of its most crucial aspects.

To conclude, it is necessary to recall that, like states, international organisations can only be effective in the fight against terrorism if they co-operate closely. This conference, which has been organised by the OSCE in such a timely and thorough manner, is an excellent opportunity to ensure this.

Terrorist organisations are flexible, adaptive and quick.  But surely we can do better.