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

Mr. President,
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 unprecedented horror.

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 participating fully.

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Mr. President,

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

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Mr. President,
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 ever.

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.