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Opening remarks by Anita Pipan from Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia at the Euro-Mediterranean Seminar 'Ensuring Respect for Human Rights While Countering Terrorism in Accordance with International Law'


Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Euro-Mediterranean Seminar “Ensuring Respect for Human Rights While Countering Terrorism in Accordance with International Law” on behalf of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

I would like to thank the Czech Government for the generous hospitality and for organising this important event together with the European Commission.

Countering terrorism and the respect for human rights and rule of law is an important part of the broader Slovenian Presidency agenda, which includes cooperation with partners. Working with Euromed partners in this endeavour is of utmost importance.

Through the implementation of commitments under the Barcelona Five-Year Work Programme, the Euro-Mediterranean Code of Conduct on Countering Terrorism and the conclusions of the 9th Euro-Mediterranean Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Lisbon last November we attain the objectives of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.

The Slovenian Presidency coorganised three events in the area of Countering Terrorism in the Euromed framework in the first half of 2008:

The first one took place on 22 April in Brussels in the context of the Euromed meeting on countering terrorism, organised by the Presidency. It was focused on “Countering the Use of the Internet for Terrorist Purposes”.

The second one was the workshop on the mechanisms of international cooperation in criminal matters pertaining to counter-terrorism in Rabat 5-6 May. It was hosted by Morocco and co-organised by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the European Commission.

And the third one is today’s workshop.  It offers a unique opportunity to improve the exchange of information and best practices. We have a very broad participation of government officials, academics and civil society representatives.

The Euromed Code of Conduct on Countering Terrorism clearly stresses that our response must remain proportionate and solidly anchored within international and domestic legal frameworks that ensure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It also underlines that we must not imperil the democratic values to which we are committed.

In this context I would like to emphasise EU’s strong view that any measures we undertake to prevent and combat terrorism must comply with our obligations under international law, in particular international human rights law, refugee law and humanitarian law.

The EU is based on values of democracy and human rights. It promotes these values also in its foreign policy and external action as it believes that the promotion and protection of human rights is the cornerstone of peace and security and sustainable development.

Over the last ten years, the EU has adopted specific guidelines on some, though not all, key thematic human rights issues, which we use as operational tools in our foreign policy engagement. The EU so far have guidelines on the death penalty (we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of this guidelines next June), on torture, on human rights defenders, on children affected by armed conflict and on children's rights.

The EU human rights priorities are however not limited to the guidelines. We pay a lot of attention to issue of racism and xenophobia, to freedom of expression and related rights, to women's rights and gender equality and also for human rights in countering terrorism.

Here, we continue to emphasize the need to ensure the consistency of countering terrorism with the human rights obligations. The EU remains firmly committed to the absolute prohibition of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment. It guides our own actions and we consistently raise our concerns with others.

Also in the EU framework, when it comes to countering terrorism, it has to be underlined that all measures taken by the EU in this context have to comply with European human rights standards and principles.

The EU supports the United Nations as the only truly global forum for the fight against terrorism. The UN has a key role in mobilising the international community against terrorism. EU supports the work of UN mechanisms in this regard and calls on all states to fully cooperate with all special rapporteurs and particularly to accept requests from the mandate holders for country visits.  We also strongly believe that close cooperation between various UN bodies is an indispensable element of the efficiency of these bodies.

We highly value the work of special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Mr Scheinin. We look forward to his contribution at the seminar. The fight against terrorism has many impacts, not only on political and civil rights but also on economic, social and cultural rights.

The newly established mechanism of Universal Periodic Review is a new opportunity to address issues of concern in an efficient manner. It should become a means of effective implementation of findings and recommendations by independent expert procedures.

From this UN – EU perspective I see today’s meeting also as direct implementation of the United Nations Global Counter Terrorism Strategy, which was adopted in 2006, and its upcoming first formal review scheduled for September this year in New York. The Strategy calls for enhanced cross-regional cooperation in all of its areas.

One of these areas deals with the measures to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism. The preventive strand of our efforts - one of the four strands - is focusing on the promotion of respect for human rights, good governance, democracy, tolerance, education and economic prosperity. This is important from the perspective of countering the issue of radicalisation and recruitment and addressing conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism. Human rights violations may lead individuals to violent acts to achieve their objectives.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me in this context mention also the role of the intercultural dialogueand dialogue between cultures. They are tools for diminishing prejudice, stereotypes and discriminations that may unfoundedly arise from the spread of terrorism and radicalisations – and it can enhance our understanding about the origins of these phenomena.

We are pleased that the awareness of the significance of such dialogue has been raised globally and that it enjoys a growing political support involving the policies of individual countries, regional structures (EU) and also of UN – with the Alliance of Civilisations initiative.

Intercultural dialogue is one of the priorities of Slovenia's EU Presidency. Just a week ago there was solemn inauguration of a Euro-Mediterranean university with its seat in Piran, Slovenia. It was originally Slovenian idea, now enthusiastically endorsed by all Euromed partners. We believe that the University will contribute to the dialogue among youth and scholars in the Mediterranean basin that represents rich cultural, religious and humanistic inheritance of human civilisation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

to conclude: the world has changed dramatically after the 9/11. We are faced with a constant challenge of how to strike a proper balance between national security and human rights in order not to lower human rights standards. We sometimes witness cases whereby countries would more easily (and recklessly) use the argument of the fight against terrorism to cover other policies (that would especially affect human rights).

But there should be no dilemma. Effective counter-terrorism measures and the protection of human rights are not and must not be conflicting, but complementary and mutually reinforcing goals. It’s also our European heritage and values – those of respect for human rights standards and for our commitments to the international law – that bound us in our actions in fight against terrorism.

I would like to thank the speakers that will set the stage and moderators to steer the discussion and wish you all a very productive and fruitful meeting.

Thank you Mr Chairman.


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Date: 16.06.2008