Switzerland and other member states of the Global Counterterrorism Forum have adopted measures designed to combat terrorism and provide support to victims, including a memorandum against paying ransom for hostages.
Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, representing Switzerland at the Forum’s third meeting on Friday in the United Arab Emirates, said the memorandum on preventing kidnapping for ransom by terrorists was “highly significant” and welcomed its adoption. Switzerland is committed to not paying ransom to kidnappers, he said.
In a highly publicised case in 2011, a Swiss couple were abducted while traveling in a dangerous area of Pakistan. At the time, Burkhalter denounced “the abduction industry” and emphasised that travelers should consider their responsibility for their personal safety and the limits of state intervention. The Swiss hostages turned up at a military checkpoint after nine months of captivity.
“Violent extremism has many sources”, Burkhalter told the meeting attendees. “But the bottom line is that terrorists decide that spreading terror and violence is both justified and efficient in bringing about ideological, political or social change.”
He called on the attendees to “look beyond the issue of ransom” and to work together to prevent kidnapping and to ensure the safe release of hostages.
The Forum also agreed on a Plan of Action for Victims of Terrorism designed to provide victims with legal and medical assistance and support.
Burkhalter reminded the participants that at their second meeting, held in Turkey in June 2012, they had agreed on the need to focus on practical work. He described a number of countertterrorism projects being supported by Switzerland.
Burkhalter also said that the Geneva Center for Security Policy was prepared to lend support to the Abu Dhabi Centre of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism, which was inaugurated during the meeting.
The Forum was founded in 2011 as a place to share experience, expertise and strategies. It comprises 29 member states from four continents. It is seen as one way of implementing the United Nation’s 2006 Global Counterterrorism Strategy.