Ambassador Jenö C.A. Staehelin, Permanant Representative to the UN
"Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism"
United Nations General Assembly
New York, New York
October 5, 2001
The terrorist attacks in the USA on September 11 this year are a tragedy which
goes beyond human understanding. They are also acts of criminal violence of
On behalf of the Swiss government and all the people of Switzerland, I wish
to express to the American people our most heart-felt sense of solidarity and
friendship at this extremely painful and difficult time. Our thoughts go to
all the victims, their friends and families. We owe esteem and recognition to
all those who committed themselves so courageously and without the least hesitation
to the difficult and dangerous rescue operation.
This tragedy has profoundly shocked the Swiss people. It has intolerably wounded
a 'sister republic' with whom we share fundamental values.
The events in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania affect us all. Even though
terrorism seems elusive, the international community is not powerless or without
defences. However, the effectiveness of its response depends on our unity and
determination: terrorism can only be successfully countered through well-considered
and collective action.
This action must be based on law and on the fundamental principles that govern
our democratic societies. Terrorists want to use violence to destroy the rule
of law. We must not fall into the trap that they have set for us. With vision
but also with firmness, our societies - which are founded on tolerance and openness
- must make a firm commitment to the struggle against this scourge.
This effort requires all those present in this assembly to join forces. Because
of its universal character and its ability to respond to global challenges,
the United Nations is called upon to be the driving force in this campaign
a role which comes naturally to it.
In adopting Resolution 1373, the Security Council has set the general direction
of action. The Swiss government welcomes this Resolution and takes this opportunity
to express its strong determination to join in the shared effort. It is already
* * *
Switzerland has been concerned for a long time with the fight against international
terrorism. It has made action in this area a priority at both the international
and national levels.
Switzerland is applying the sanctions that have been imposed by the Security
Council with the aim of combating the threat to peace and security posed by
terrorism. In particular, it has fully and unconditionally implemented and applied
Resolutions 1267 (1999) and 1333 (2000).
Switzerland is party to those international instruments concerning this issue
which have been agreed within both the United Nations and the Council of Europe.
Switzerland has signed the Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of
Terrorism in June 2001. Although this Convention has not yet come into effect,
we have started the ratification process with the aim of bringing it into effect
as soon as possible. We also intend to become party to the International Convention
for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings in the near
Switzerland has also contributed actively to discussions at the UN on the drafting
of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism. And it will participate
in all activities concerned with future instruments to combat terrorism.
Finally, in addition to the specific multilateral and regional instruments to
counter terrorism to which it is bound, Switzerland has established a network
of bilateral treaties on international mutual assistance and extradition
with the aim of increasing our ability to prevent and suppress all forms
of crime, including terrorism.
At the domestic level, we have a range of laws on actively suppressing terrorism.
On 3 July 2001, the United Nations Secretary-General published a report on measures
aimed at eradicating international terrorism, which was compiled on the basis
of information submitted by a number of states. It describes in exhaustive detail
the measures that Switzerland has taken as well as the laws and regulations
which it has adopted concerning the prevention and suppression of acts of international
terrorism. It must be emphasised that Switzerland has a law on international
mutual assistance in criminal matters which permits it even in the absence
of conventional agreements to co-operate with all other states. Moreover,
Switzerland is one of the few states to make use of 'spontaneous transmission
of information and evidence'. By this means, information obtained as a result
of investigations conducted in Switzerland can be transmitted to a foreign authority
and used in investigations conducted abroad. Finally, Switzerland is able to
take very rapid provisional measures. For example, it can order the freezing
of bank accounts as soon as the foreign authority announces that a request for
international mutual assistance will be made. These measures are critical when
the need arises to block financial transactions which benefit terrorist organisations,
and they help to prevent abuse of the Swiss financial sector by terrorist groups.
In this context, Mr. President, please allow me to be absolutely clear on this
latter point: Swiss banking secrecy laws have never protected and will never
protect terrorists or their financial transactions. The banks are bound by criminal
law and this, of course, covers terrorism to provide full information
to the judicial authorities. Switzerland gives efficient and prompt international
mutual assistance in criminal matters, in particular, by blocking the relevant
accounts and securities accounts. Moreover, Swiss banks are obliged to report
to the authorities any suspicions concerning transactions related to organised
crime and terrorism.
There is no such thing as banking secrecy when it comes to the fight against
* * *
It is of fundamental importance that we work together with even greater determination
to combat the scourge of terrorism. Terrorism threatens all of us, and we must
make sure that it fails. There is no justification whatsoever for acts such
as those committed on September 11. However, the recourse to force alone will
not suffice to eliminate terrorism. In the long term, there exists no other
way to ensure international security and prevent such despicable acts than to
reinforce international co-operation with a view to eradicating poverty, preventing
and resolving conflicts and effectively promoting human rights and the rule
of law. To this end, the international community must act more decisively than
The world-wide reaction to the abominable acts, which we all have witnessed,
must prompt us to pursue without respite the fight against terrorism. We owe
it to the memory of the victims. We must do it to preserve the primacy of law
over force, and for the radiance of our democratic societies.