Statement by Ambassador Günter Sautter in the UN Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts, August 24, 2020

24.08.2020 - Speech

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I would like to make three remarks. The first is on our approach to fighting international terrorism and foreign terrorist fighters in particular. The second point is on the continuing threat emanating from Da’esh. The third point is on why it is important that we are serious about our values when it comes to fighting terrorism.

The issue of terrorism, including the threat posed by Foreign Terrorist Fights (FTFs) will remain on our agenda for the foreseeable future. Our goal must indeed remain a lasting defeat of Da’esh, Al-Qaeda and all the other terrorist organizations and their gruesome ideologies. We therefore need to find the right responses, here in this Council, back home, and in all the conflict-torn regions on which terrorists focus, because they serve as a base of operation.

We believe that we have four tools at our disposal. The first tool that works is respect. Disrespecting people and pushing them to the margins of society will make the world less safe, step-by-step. Inequality and injustice fuel the propaganda machinery of ISIL, Al-Qaeda, and the like. If the members of these United Nations fail at providing everyone with opportunities for a meaningful life, a life in dignity, we will all fail in our fight against terrorism.

The second tool is a second chance after adequate prosecution respecting the principles of due process and fair trial. Rehabilitation and reintegration are not easy, but there is no humane alternative.

The third tool that works is not trying to solve the problem alone but working together. Here lies the true value of cooperation, be it internationally or within a society. International, regional and sub-regional cooperation remains vital.

There is a fourth tool in our view. Counter-terrorism best works with a strong role for civil society organizations. But even more important are the stories of those who lost a brother, a mother, a friend to terror, the stories of those who have lost their own lives. And let us also in this Council remember those who stand at the frontlines of this conflict, sadly sometimes even at the cost of their lives. Together, we should honor the women and men in the field who do the actual work: members of the armed forces and of law-enforcement, social workers, religious leaders, those working for urban and rural development, they all are the heroes of this struggle.

My second point is on the threat that Da’esh continues to pose. Bringing Da’esh’s territorial control to an end was an enormous achievement. Its withdrawal into the shadows, however, was not a reason to celebrate. As the Secretary-General has reported, 2020 brought a surge in activity in Syria and Iraq. COVID-19 may keep the terrorists from travelling, but the terror continues wherever they dwell. So we must continue our counter-Da’esh efforts tirelessly.

My third point is on why our values matter. It is also about double standards, on which we have already seen quite a discussion this morning. Our values are key to ensure that our response remains credible and effective. As soon as we are perceived as employing methods similar to those used by terrorists, we are losing the battle for the hearts and minds. Among the most important lessons we have learned in our struggle is that counter-terrorism measures must never serve as a pretext for human rights violations. We all know examples of so-called counter-terrorism measures that indiscriminately target ethnic minorities. That must not be our approach. The exclusion of ethnic minorities only makes those marginalized more prone to fall into the traps of violent extremism and terrorist networks. It counteracts all our efforts in trying to prevent terrorism. Regarding Xinjiang, the internment of large parts of the population is, in our view, unjustified. In the long run, it is prone not to reduce but rather to increase the risk emanating of terrorist organizations. Counter-terrorism measures are not to hinder the delivery of humanitarian assistance by humanitarian actors consistent with international humanitarian law and based on the humanitarian principles.

We celebrate the 20th birthday of resolution 1325 on women in armed conflict these days. Gender is and remains an important element in countering the terrorist threat, in a number of ways. On the one hand, women are often even more affected by violent conflict and terrorism than men. On the other hand, women are not only victims. Within Da’esh, women have been among the perpetrators as well. They have assumed important and operative functions within the organization. We should therefore include female radicalization in the priorities on our agenda.

One word on the weakest of all: children. Children have suffered dramatically under the so-called Caliphate, and almost an entire generation may be lost. With a view to the ongoing negotiations on a resolution in which where we intensively debate how children should be addressed, our position is clear: children are victims of terrorism, victims of their upbringing, victims when they are born or brought into a region of conflict. After a certain age, they become juveniles, responsible for their actions, and must face the consequences. But before that, they are victims first and foremost. To protect them and lead them back into society should therefore be our most precious goal when we talk about rehabilitation and reintegration. In very concrete terms, we in Germany are returning humanitarian cases, especially children who are German nationals, on a case-by-case basis. Each case is different and needs to be assessed on individual merits.



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