Tiny Kox: "Combating terrorism while protecting Council of Europe standards and values"

28 November 2015

Tiny Kox: "Combating terrorism while protecting Council of Europe standards and values"

Foto: Anna Kolotova | UEL PACE

Introductionary speech Council of Europe current affairs debate.

'Combating terrorism while protecting Council of Europe standards and values'

Tiny Kox, UEL - Sofia, Bulgaria November 27, 2015 

130 Innocent people massacred in Paris, 224 passengers and crew of a Russian airliner killed while heading from Sharm-el-Sheik to St. Petersburg, 100 mostly young men and women murdered in peaceful demonstration in Ankara, 43 visitors bombed dead on a market in a suburb of Beirut, 12 people murdered in Tunis by a bus bombing. Meanwhile Brussels turned into a city of fear where normal life almost came to a stand still, a state of emergency was declared in France, and a French request for derogation from certain provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights has been made. All over Europe and the rest of the world people are preparing for new atrocities by the so called Islamic State terrorists who have declared war on the values we here in the Council of Europe call fundamental: democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

This fanatic ISIL terrorism poses a threat to us all and therefore it is needed to act together to end this evil. We have to combat international terrorism, as the first part of the title of this current affairs debate states. Question is not whether we should do our utmost to overcome this major threat to civilization, but how we can do this in an effective way. And here the second part of the title becomes relevant: we should combat international terrorism while protecting Council of Europe standards and values. And recent history shows that this is easier said than done.

This year the Council of Europe adopted its additional protocol on the Convention on the prevention of terrorism, after the terrorist attacks in January this year in Paris. The convention itself was already concluded ten years earlier in Warsaw, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the United States. And already in 1999 the United Nations adopted its Terrorist Financing Convention. Twenty years before this UN convention the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe already adapted its Declaration on Terrorism, in 1978, stating that ' the prevention and suppression of terrorism is indispensable to the maintenance of the democratic structure of member states.'

Many of these international treaties oblige member states to implement the essence of the treaties in national legislation. And this is indeed an important achievement, to have legal instruments to combat international terrorism. As far as I can see we do not lack legal instruments as such, but we to often lack effective instruments. Let me give an example. The most important Convention which deals with the financing of terrorism was, as I already said, adopted in 1999, came into force in 2002 and has now been ratified by 187 member states of the United Nations. But in spite of the world wide adoption of this Convention it is until now seemingly impossible to cut of the financial lifelines of the ISIL terrorists. According to the German government ISIL is by far the richest terrorist organization ever, with access to billions to finance its terrorist activities, both in Syria and Iraq as well in Paris, Beirut, Ankara and Tunis. In spite of the convention which orders UN member states to close all financial canals to and from ISIL terrorists, at least 40 member states - according to Russian President Putin recently in Antalya at the G 20 summit, provide financial means to ISIL and therewith the oxygen needed to keep the terrorist fire burning. In spite of this Convention ISIL still is able to sell oil to others, in return tens of millions of dollars are floating each month to ISIL.

Instead of using the existing conventions and laws and make them more effective, we to often we create ever more rules, hoping that they will show the effectiveness the earlier conventions and rules did not bring. Here we have to listen carefully
to what our Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner only recently, in June, said:
'The US-led 'war on terror' and many European states' counterterrorism efforts violated core principles of human rights and international law, including the following: protection against torture, the right to personal liberty and security, the right to a fair trial including the presumption of innocence, the right to respect for private and family life, the freedoms of expression and of movement, the right to an effective remedy and victims' rights to reparation following states' unlawful acts.' Our Human Rights Commissioner concludes that during this period thousands of individuals including many European citizens and many innocents have been victimized.' I thank our Commissioner for the courage to look into the mirror when evaluating recent counterterrorism efforts in our member states.

After the recent terrorist attacks many of our leading politicians, including French President Hollande and Dutch Prime Minister Rutte and many more, stated that we now are at war with ISIL. It is not difficult to understand the mood of our politicians when using this language, many of our citizens might feel the same. But nevertheless we should be very, very careful when using this vocabulary. None of the international conventions we drafted to combat terrorism do define those who commit terrorist acts as a soldiers of an army with which we are at war but, rightly in my opinion, as criminals who commit awful crimes against innocent people in order to destabilize our societies and create an atmosphere of fear. In recent days several governments did decide to intervene militarily in Iraq and Syria. However, there are serious doubts whether all this is in line with international standards. And until now a combined strategy behind these military interventions seem to lack completely. It would be far better not to increase external military intervention but reach as soon as possible a negotiated ceasefire in Syria between government and opposition groups, on the basis of the Vienna talks, and to have a far more inclusive government in Iraq, which could unite the divided country and increase its internal strength. Then the international community could provide both countries with the means necessary to combat and defeat ISIL terrorism themselves. Foreign military interventions in this region have a bad track record, as we all know.

Again: any democracy is fully entitled to defend itself. Let me again quote our Human Rights Commissioner: 'Terrorist activity has been a real and present threat, as well as a fundamental violation of human rights.' There is no single argument to polish international terrorism - it is what it is: a crime against our citizens, against our way of living, against our standards and values. But, and I again use the words our our Human Rights Commissioner: ' State attempts to combat international terrorism must be human rights compliant and remain within the rule of law.' And he rightly addresses us, politicians, when he continues that 'forfeiting human rights in the fight against terrorism is a grave mistake and an ineffective measure that may help the cause of terrorists.'

While looking for the best ways to combat terrorism, we, parliamentarians, always have to be the guarantee that all what we propose and adopt is indeed human rights proofing and compliant and remain within the rule of law.

There are quite a lot outside who state that now is not the time to talk about human rights, democracy and the rule of law. In times of war other laws are in place, they tell our citizens. In my country the party which is now most popular in the opinion polls, says that we are at war with Islam, that the Koran is a fascist book and that we should let not a single muslim refugee pass our borders to seek shelter, whatever harm may have been done by terrorists to the person involved. Here, 'les extremes se touchent', the extremes meet - being both opposed to our fundamental standards and values, to which equality, freedom of expression and religion and right to find shelter when needed surely belong.

In conclusion I end with the title of this debate: let us combat international terrorism - while protecting our Council of Europe standards and values. These two elements are not contradictory - they always should go along.

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