Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends:
Terrorism has a face – and it is the face of its victims, whether one or in the thousands. Ultimately, the reason for our work to counter terrorism is precisely the existence of its numerous victims. All our efforts should be devoted to the restoration of their honour, memory, dignity, and to bring them justice.
If there are two principles that I have always maintained throughout my professional career, these are the respect and protection at all times of victims of acts of terrorism, coupled with the fight against impunity – all under the rule of law.
Given the current state of the world, please allow me to address some of the questions that we probably all share: Why can the international community not put an end to terrorism? How come that instead of us getting closer to ending it, terrorism seems to be escalating further?
I think that the answer to these questions lies not so much in the regulatory framework and its implementation – or the lack thereof – particularly in some regions and countries, such as for instance Syria and Iraq. Neither does the answer lie in the atrocities committed by terrorist organizations in both of these countries, but the fact that, perhaps more than ever before, the feeling that terrorists act with impunity. And as I mentioned earlier, when we speak of impunity, we must think about the victims of terrorism; they always deserve our respect and consideration.
A common feature of victims of acts of terrorism is their resilience and to never seek revenge, but justice. Terrorists must be brought to justice. That is the first and only demand of victims in all parts of the world. This is also the first requirement of the Rule of Law. Therefore, it is critical that the international community offers assistance to countries around the world to introduce into their legal systems the tools needed to recognize, protect, and assist victims. We shall accompany them in their pain and never abandon them. We shall ensure that justice is not denied and that we remember forever victims of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
For the same reason, States and relevant international organizations should assist the implementation of the right of access to and administration of justice; the right to investigation of terrorist acts, and the prosecution of instigators and perpetrators; the right to the protection of the privacy of the families of the victims; the right to protection of the safety and dignity thereof; and the right to information for victims, including how to deal with the media. The responsibility of the media when treating victims and survivors is also very important in this regard.
The other key aspect I would like to emphasize is how crucial the testimony of victims is in the process of fighting violent radicalization. Their testimony is the most powerful tool that exists in the de-legitimization of the message of terrorists. It must be emphasized in this regard that the actual role victims can play in this process must be that it is based on their own free will. Any improper attempt to instrumentalize their pain must be avoided.
Mr. President, Dear Friends:
I cannot help but to repeat and underscore yet again the importance of the attention given to victims not raising their children in revenge, despite the stigma and sometimes double victimization that so many of them have had to suffer. They have never expressed reactive violence – which is an element common to victims worldwide. That deep sense of human dignity has become the key that increasingly makes us respect them even more.
The dignity of victims must be matched by each of us. This is best done by remembering them and respecting them; which means preventing anyone from manipulating history, and not allowing us to forget what happened. It involves understanding that victims of terrorism represent us all, represent a society that has been attacked with extreme violence and cruelty, whatever the alleged reasons may be. Victims should represent a society victorious against terror, a just society, a free society.
As Ayman al-Zawahiri once declared: “We love death as much as you love life”, it is our moral duty to ensure that this distorted view of life does not prevail. We must continue to work hand-in-hand, tirelessly, to ensure that those holding such views are vanquished and that our societies are protected from their actions. Terrorism tests our societies’ unity and resolve. Our continued resilience demonstrates that we shall pass that test.
Mr. President, Excellencies,
One of our greatest challenges is to determine how we react to terrorism, both individually and collectively.
The brutality of terrorism which above all is a crime as defined by the international community in all its sectorial legal instruments and its disregard for human life inspire outrage and fear.
Governments inevitably feel the pressure to respond to that outrage and fear through immediate and decisive action.
However, terrorism is a complex phenomenon. Terrorist strategies evolve rapidly, and the success of those strategies relies upon certain assumptions about how Governments, organizations, civil society, the media, and others will react.
So, if our response serves only to undermine the Rule of Law and Human Rights, we shall ultimately succeed only in delegitimizing our actions and playing into the hands of the terrorists.
This cannot be the way ahead.
The fight against terrorism cannot be left to law enforcement and military alone.
This is why the United Nations has increased its work to support victims of terrorism based on the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy which recognises that only a multi-faceted approach can defeat terrorism and provide the respect, recognition and support to victims that they deserve.
Strengthening victims voices to prevent the narratives of terrorists and violent extremists from dominating the discourse, promoting and protecting their rights, developing capacity building initiatives and establishing practical mechanisms, such as through the UN Victims of Terrorism Support Portal, are only some of the measures the United Nations has taken in our responsibility to victims.
The Secretary-General's Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism notes the important role that victims can play in all counter-terrorism efforts. This was reiterated during the UN international conference on the human rights of victims of terrorism that was held in February of this year and whose outcome stressed the importance of integrating victims issues at the global, regional and national level. Every leader, every organization, every journalist, and every citizen must confront terrorism and send a clear message that our most cherished values of life, equality, and nondiscrimination are inalienable and may not be compromised.
The continued suffering of victims around the world is a clarion call to us all to move beyond our longstanding rivalries to forge a meaningful global partnership.
We face nothing less than the historical and collective task of saving succeeding generations from the scourge of terrorism.
Allow me to quote the great French-Algerian writer and thinker Albert Camus, who said:
“Each generation doubtless feels called upon to reform the world. Mine knows that it will not reform it, but its task is perhaps even greater. It consists in preventing the world from destroying itself.”
Let me close by thanking our hosts for this invitation to appear before all of you today. It is a great honour and a big challenge as I rarely have the opportunity to speak before an audience of such importance and stature. Following these remarks, I sincerely hope to see a lively debate that is enriching to us all. Thank you for your kind attention.