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Conference ''Prevention of terrorism: prevention tools, legal instruments and their implementation''

Istanbul , 

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Dear Minister,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me start by saying how honoured I am to open this conference on the Prevention of Terrorism. The lineup of speakers and participants gathered here to consider the challenges our society faces in the wake of recent years' terrorist attacks is truly impressive.

It is also not by chance that the Turkish authorities have invited us here to discuss the issue of prevention of terrorism. Turkey is one of the European countries which has had the most painful and distressing experience with terrorism.

This painful experience is one of the reasons why Turkey has established the fight against terrorism as one of the priorities of its current Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

Allow me, first of all, to give you a brief outline of the Council of Europe action against terrorism. I will then underline the importance of the prevention of terrorism and highlight the main objectives of this conference from the perspective of the Council of Europe.

Council of Europe action against terrorism

In one sentence, the Council of Europe is an intergovernmental organisation which defends and extends democracy, Human Rights and the rule of law, and is the guardian of the European Convention on Human Rights, enforced through the European Court of Human Rights.

The Council of Europe is not a club of perfect democracies. Rather it is a place of work, where governments accept legally-binding obligations and voluntarily submit themselves to rigorous monitoring of their compliance with those obligations. Some countries encounter more difficulties than others, but the fact is that we are making progress everywhere in Europe.

The Council of Europe has been an actor in the fight against terrorism since the 1970s, and our Organisation has developed a holistic and multidisciplinary approach to combating terrorism while respecting human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.

These values are of particular importance. Quite aside from the many reasons of principle why it is unwise to abandon democratic values and practices in the face of a terrorist threat, there are also a number of pragmatic reasons.

To alter these values in one's government in response to a terrorist threat is to concede a victory to terrorists. It is to reward the terrorists' action by acknowledging their power through a disproportionate and inappropriate reaction.

The comprehensive approach based on the protection of Human Rights and the respect of the rule of law is not an obstacle, but an asset in the fight against terrorism. It allows us to be successful in stopping terrorists. This also helps to stop recruitment of new ones.

Condemnation and suppression are certainly important. However, in the long-term, they must be combined with preventive measures, because the only effective
anti-terrorist policy is one which stops more terrorists.

The Council of Europe has made much progress in a relatively short period of time.

The Council of Europe action to the fight against terrorism could be resumed in 3 P's: Prevention of terrorism, Prosecution of terrorists and Protection of victims of terrorism while protecting and respecting the Human Rights of all.

In this respect, we have developed several legal instruments and policy recommendations which aim at reinforcing our respective legal, administrative and social safeguards.

Moreover, the Council of Europe is enhancing its efforts for strengthening international co-operation by providing a unique forum for exchange of information and best practices between governments, law enforcement authorities and other international organisations.

The Council of Europe Committee of Experts on Terrorism (CODEXTER) is entrusted with the co-ordination of the implementation of the Council of Europe's action against terrorism. We thank the Turkish authorities for hosting the 19th meeting of the CODEXTER prior to this Conference.

Prevention of Terrorism
As for prevention of terrorism, the Council of Europe has lead international action in relation to the prevention of terrorism and prepared in 2005, the first multilateral treaty in this field : the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism.

The Council of Europe considers the prevention of terrorism from two aspects, namely the setting-up of comprehensive prevention policies, and criminalisation of certain acts that may lead to terrorist offences, as well as reinforcing
co-operation on prevention both internally and internationally.

On the subject of prevention policies, our Organisation, in an attempt to weaken the sources of discontent that may fuel terrorism, works to discourage any stigmatisation, discrimination and intolerance in its member States and encourages inter-cultural dialogue and understanding.

Several examples illustrate the Council's work in this field, including our White Paper on inter-cultural dialogue, which is a blueprint for our governments' action in this critically important area.
Moreover, through the Intercultural Cities project, the Council of Europe recently tested a model of migrant/minority integration at the local level, based on the principle of intercultural community-building.

Talking about comprehensive prevention policies, I can not avoid speaking about the issue of the protection and support to the victims of terrorist acts. Rights of victims of terrorism form an integral part of individual rights and are also part of an overall human, judicial and social environment.
The Council of Europe framework contains some relevant Council of Europe conventions and a dozen relevant resolutions and recommendations regarding the protection and support to the victims of violent crimes, including the victims of terrorism.

In this respect, our Organisation pays particular attention to three concepts: the right to recognition, the right to support and aid, and the rights to reparation.

All these initiatives reflect the Council of Europe's conviction that dialogue between individuals of different religions, cultures and heritage based on mutual understanding, respect for Human Rights and tolerance is key to enhancing social cohesion and, as a result, tackling terrorism.

Tackling terrorism implies also the criminalisation of certain acts that may lead to the commission of terrorist offences. On this subject, major innovations of our Organisation lay in the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism and Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism.

Both texts will be discussed in depth during this Conference. I would only like to recall that these new instruments – both technical and innovative - have received large political support since they were introduced by our member States in 2005. These new Conventions came in addition to the Convention on Cybercrime - which is a unique legal tool in this field applicable to the prevention and suppression of the use of the Internet by terrorists.

All three Conventions have a real potential to help deal with the global problem of terrorism.

We are proud of them in the Council of Europe because they bear the characteristic Council of Europe trademark, combining new and effective means for international legal co-operation with strict insistence on the protection of Human Rights.

These standards are tailored to the specifics of the region where they are to be applied, but have also served as precursors to efforts in other regions of the world. This is the case, in particular, of the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism, which served as an inspiration for national laws but also for international texts, such as the UN Security Council resolution 1624 (2005) and the revised European Union Framework Decision on combating terrorism. Council of Europe conventions are open to countries other than Council of Europe member states, and we are very encouraged by the interest in their signature and ratification shown by countries from other continents.

From the perspective of the Council of Europe, the development of broadly acceptable norms and procedures for sharing information and mutual legal assistance is one of the most important ways in which the international community can be engaged in the campaign to contain the terrorist threat.

We are likely to encounter terrorist threats in the future, just as we have in the past. Indeed, we are going to have to learn to live with them and to accept them as a price of living in a complex world.
It is our responsibility - as policymakers and experts – to work out how to prevent and stop terrorism and to do so efficiently.

Main objectives of this conference

The first objective of this Conference is to share our experiences in preventing terrorism and highlight the best practices and means of action.

Our Governments have a duty to protect us from terrorism, but they must do so intelligently, effectively and – above all - legally.

This Conference could provide States with a good opportunity to consider the methods and the instruments, legally and technically-speaking, to enhance prevention policies and to implement the criminalisation of certain offences that may lead to terrorist acts.

I would like to take this opportunity to call on those member states of the Council of Europe which have not yet done so, to sign or ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Prevention of Terrorism, the Council of Europe Convention on Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism and the Convention on Cybercrime. I would also like to remind you that all these instruments are open to accession by non-member states of the Council of Europe.

At the same time, this Conference is also an opportunity to reaffirm the rejection of the bogus choice between security and freedom. This statement may sound rather ideological, but it is based on facts.

Our approach must strike a fair balance between individual rights and the interests of society, a delicate balance but a fundamental one in times of crisis – be it an economic crisis or the destabilisation of the State by terrorist acts.

Whatever the danger we face, we must ensure the preservation of these common values which are the basis of our social pact.

The terrorist threat knows no boundaries, and our response must be international. This is why I also welcome the participation in this event of a number of international organisations.

Finally, we hope that this Conference will stimulate the debate and allow us to identify new challenges and gaps in the prevention of terrorism and possibly to explore solutions. From the Council of Europe perspective, such a debate will be most instructive and allow us to see how legal instruments, such as the Council of Europe Conventions on Prevention of Terrorism and Financing of Terrorism, can be further strengthened to take new challenges into account.

The prevention of terrorism is utimately a political rather than a military goal and it is imperative to keep the political goal firmly in mind.

The nature of this goal affords the political leadership the time and the opportunity to educate the public to the nature of the treat we face and the careful steps that must be taken to prevent and counter it. In this process our commitment to the rule of law and Human Rights is among the strongest weapons that we have in our arsenal. All we have to do is remember them.

Thank you for your attention.