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Conter Terrorism: The UK Approach

Conter Terrorism: The UK Approach

Speech by Dr Kim Howells, MP, Minister of State responsible for the Middle East, Afghanistan and South Asia, Counter Narcotics, Counter Proliferation, Counter Terrorism, UN and UN Reform. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, July 22, 2005. Source: FCO, London.

    Your Excellencies, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here to address such a distinguished audience on the UK's approach to Counter Terrorism. I had intended to address this topic today, even before the events in London on 7 July and during the last 24 hours.

On behalf of the UK government, I would like to thank the Malaysian government and its people for all the messages of support which we have received since that terrible day on 7 July. We were heartened by them. They strengthened our resolve. They showed that terrorism is despised by decent people around the world.

Let me draw on the example of one victim of the London attacks. Shahara Islam was a British born woman of Benglai-origin. On the morning of 7 July, Shahara had a dental appointment in London and was taking the number 30 bus to the bank at which she worked in North London when it was blown up by a suicide bomber. Shahara was a Muslim, from a devout family, who regularly attended her local mosque. Upon news of her death, her father explained that she had loved London and loved Britain.

I never met Shahara Islam. There was no reason why I should have done. If the terrible events of 7 July had never happened, it is unlikely that she would ever have been known to the British public. I am speaking to you today about her life and death because she symbolises the multiculturalism which is so evident in London and in the UK. She lived happily in Britain and as a Muslim, as many hundreds of thousands of our citizens do in the UK.

The British government and the British public are determined that the London atrocities will not be allowed to create tension between its many cultures, between its religions and between its races. I opened an Asia-Europe meeting yesterday with the Indonesian President, and many distinguished guests of Asian and European religious and community leaders. The meeting was designed to identify practical steps to inter-faith and community harmony. I was delighted to see so many Malaysian representatives there.

The terrorist bombs planted were an attack on all of us who espouse the cause of openness and democracy. Those who planned and carried out these attacks did not stop to ask their victims for details of their nationality or religion. They struck at the heart of London's rush-hour in order to kill as many innocent people as possible. They killed and injured Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews and people of no professed religion. Among them people from 19 different countries.

Yesterday, I also laid a wreath at the Bali bombing memorial. So I know that the terrorists have and will kill indiscriminately in your region too.

Let me say at once that the UK makes a clear distinction between the tiny minority of violent extremists and the millions who follow the faiths they claim to represent. As the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom said last week: 'Fanaticism is not a state of religion but a state of mind'. The UK government is doing its utmost to make it clear that the extremism of a tiny minority must not be allowed to damage the name of Islam or the Muslim peoples world-wide. The vast majority of Muslims in Britain, here and around the globe are moderate and peace loving. And the use of violence is not unique to those who claim Islam, or rather a distorted version of Islam, as their faith. Those that carry out terrorist acts represent neither their communities nor their religion. These are not just words, but above all, those of the British Muslim community who have made it very clear in the past few days that they disown these individuals. They have also recognised that it is time to marginalise the extremists; to compete in the ideological battle; to exploit the global media as Al Qa'ida and others do; to take the intellectual and communications fight to the terrorists. The fanatics have used the modern media as an extension of their terrorism. We must use it as part of our counter terrorism.

Malaysia and the UK have a long history of working together to combat terrorism. The 'Emergency' in which 11,000 were killed showed how difficult it is to prevent ruthless killers from taking innocent lives. But the joint Malaysian and British efforts to counter those terrorists also showed how a comprehensive approach to combating terrorism can be successful. Many of the lessons which we learnt, alongside our Malaysian friends and colleagues in those dark days, still influence our thinking and strategy on Counter Terrorism.

The UK's Counter Terrorism Strategy is divided into four elements:

  1. Preventing the emergence of new generations of terrorists by tackling the underlying factors which lead to radicalisation and recruitment;

  2. Pursuing the terrorists and those who sponsor them;

  3. Protecting potential targets from terrorist attack; and

  4. Preparing for the consequences of an attack so as to minimise its impact.

  • Prepare

Despite the fact that the bombings in London came out of the blue, in terms of response, we were well prepared for the horrors of the 7 July attacks. Within minutes of the bombs in the London Underground, we had launched our well-rehearsed and highly co-ordinated emergency response, under the direction of senior officials from all government departments.

UK and Malaysian officials have worked together since 2003 to develop and improve the plans each of us has to respond to terrorist attacks, to natural disasters, and similar emergencies. In the UK, we practice our emergency response several times each year. Malaysian observers have visited the UK four times to observe these exercises. And we have been working closely with many Malaysian agencies, led by your National Security Directorate, to share our experience through a series of courses and seminars – six so far this year. We hope that this practice can continue and that the UK will also be invited to observe the Malaysian exercises so that we can learn from your experiences. The skills developed by our response teams can equally be deployed in responding to crises caused by natural disasters. Our Counter Terrorism forensic officers, now working round the clock in London, had only just finished a six month deployment in Thailand and Sri Lanka responding to the aftermath of the Tsunami. And Malaysian emergency response services were, I believe, the first on the ground in Acheh on 26 December.

  • Protect

Turning to our policy about Protect.

One of the objectives of our counter terrorist strategy is, of course, to protect our interests from attack. I am grateful to the Malaysian government for the security it provides to the British High Commission and other British interests in Malaysia.

But clearly protection goes well beyond securing flag-bearing buildings.

Protecting our aviation interests is a key objective for our G8 Presidency. Malaysia and the UK have worked together to increase security on the planes which travel between our two countries and carry our citizens and at the airports from which they depart. And we must continue to do this. In the area of defence, the Five Powers Defence Arrangements have historically provided the framework within which our armed forces have worked together to develop our nations' capacity to respond to threats, including in the vital sea-lanes around Malaysia. Recently, the UK and Malaysia, and our Five Power Defence Arrangement partners from Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, have agreed to extend that work to encompass the threats from terrorism and piracy. Already our Navies have been able to begin exercising the skills needed to respond to such threats.

No one country can protect its interests and citizens without the full support and co-operation of its partners and friends. That's something that we have learned very painfully in the UK. I am grateful for all the support which the Malaysian government affords the UK in this area.

  • Pursue

Whilst we protect our interests and people we are, at the same time, actively pursuing all terrorist activity and potential threats from terrorists which threaten those interests. We must get ahead of the terrorists to disrupt their activity.

By working together the international community has created a much harder environment in which terrorists operate. But the harsh reality remains that terrorism will continue to be a threat to all law-abiding, democratic nations for the foreseeable future. And no country is immune to the indiscriminate tactics pursued by Al Qa'ida and its associates, including Jemaah Islamiya. Bombs have destroyed innocents from Jakarta to Madrid, from Morocco to Kenya, and from Istanbul to New Delhi. Extremists are prepared to attack anyone, anywhere. Terrorism is an international problem which needs an international response.

We believe that the most effective way of disrupting terrorist activity is by having a robust law enforcement system which can gather and analyse intelligence on terrorists, effective police forces able to investigate their crimes (we've seen that example in London over the last few weeks); and by having the legislation in place so that they can be prosecuted properly and quickly. And we need close co-operation between our police and prosecuting authorities. We in the UK have been grateful for the help of the Malaysian authorities in pursuing past crimes and we are confident that our co-operation will continue in the future.

In the wake of the London Bombings you will have seen the huge amount of evidence that is being gathered from the crime scenes, CCTV footage, mobile phones, and thousands of witnesses who have been questioned and interviewed about what they may have seen. Some of the results have already become apparent, others will take time to be realised. That process of realisation will require the assistance of police and judicial authorities across the globe as we seek to trace the links between those who acted in the UK and others who provided planning, technical assistance and motivation. I want to stress here the importance of old-fashioned, sophisticated policing; of the police working with communities and applying modern forensic science to identify the bombers and their networks.

There are many other areas, including the movement of funds (money laundering) and the movement of people. Underpinning our counter terrorist strategy is a commitment to ensure that our policies under Pursue are entirely consistent with our international human rights obligations. Hence the consistent application in our legislation of the principal of judicial review. There is no place for human rights abuse in the fight against terrorism. It poses very serious problems.

Many of our international partners are as determined as we are to tackling terrorism but some occasionally lack the means and expertise to do so. We understand that the UK Government is working closely with many of our international partners to help them build the necessary capacity to combat terrorism. Drawing on UK expertise we are providing training and support across a wide spectrum to more than 25 countries. Our programmes are designed to help countries reduce the threat to our shared interests by increasing their ability to catch and prosecute terrorists.

We are working more closely than ever with other countries on law enforcement. The Malaysian and UK police enjoy good co-operation, built on a solid platform of strong and historical links between them. The UK's intelligence and security agencies work together with their foreign counterparts around the world to tackle the shared threat from terrorism. But there is always scope for improvement. For strengthening and deepening links. For building trust and confidence so we can work more closely together. The terrorists take advantage of global networks – so must we. I hope that my visit will help to demonstrate our desire to work with Malaysia and the importance we place on making this relationship work.

  • Prevent

Our counter terrorism policy is not only about pursuing terrorists. It is also about having a coherent and complementary strategy to prevent the emergence of new terrorists. It is crucial that we all work together to keep our young people from those that facilitate their recruitment to violence. We must also learn what is driving them to sympathise with such radical views that they would give up their own lives in the process of taking others. So we are trying to tackle the underlying causes of terrorism.

The UK gives priority in this respect to good governance, tackling the issues which place states at risk of instability, and the resolution of the conflicts that underlie the growth of some terrorist movements. In many respects these are long-term issues and our work will take some time to bear results. But there remains, of course, no justification for terrorism. The UN is clear on that and there are very few governments that disagree with that.

In 2003 the UK Government set, as one of its key international priorities, wider and deeper engagement with the Islamic world. Our objective is to prevent terrorism by encouraging political and economic reform; to create better mutual understanding between the Western nations and Muslim societies; to build bridges with the Muslim community in Britain and – crucially – to help resolve conflict and build peace between nations and communities, particularly in the Middle East.

These issues cannot be resolved immediately. Mistrust, anger and resentment have taken root over decades, even centuries, fuelling the long-running conflicts which are such a fertile breeding ground for terrorist activity. But there is a lot we can do to foster greater understanding between communities and between faith groups. And we need to act quickly and together if we are to stem the rising tide of fanaticism and its devastating consequences, as we have seen so recently in London.

One of our key objectives as President of the EU over the next six months and of the G8, is to make greater progress towards peace in the Middle East. We recognise that a solution to this conflict would have a positive impact far beyond those in Israel and Palestine. The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has placed resolution of the conflict at the very heart of our foreign policy.

We are committed to helping the Palestinians to establish a viable democratic state. And we are keen to tackle the sense of despair and helplessness that can so easily undermine the prospects for a peaceful solution.

In March the UK hosted a major conference designed to facilitate international support for the political reform, economic development and security plans of the Palestinian Authority. At their Summit in Gleneagles, the Prime Minister and other G8 leaders endorsed Wolfensohn's plan to raise $3 billion to support a viable and functioning Palestinian state. We will be working with the international community to help realise this ambitious level of support for the Palestinians and to achieve a two-state solution.

Since 2001, the UK has spent £147 million, or around one billion ringgit, on its Palestinian Programme. In 2005-2006, the UK plans to spend around £60.4 million or another 410 million ringgit on helping the Palestinian Authority. The EU collectively is the world's biggest donor to the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority. Total assistance allocated in 2004, via the Commission, amounted to around €250 million.

This money supports an enormous range of projects. We are helping develop strong and accountable institutions that will make the Palestinian Authority a more viable and legitimate body, one better able to tackle the social, economic and law and order problems present in the occupied territories. Our aid, through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), provides primary healthcare and educational facilities for Palestinian refugees. The EU is also providing finance to ensure that Israeli disengagement from Gaza and the northern West Bank this summer is a success.

We are also working to achieve stability in other areas of concern. In Afghanistan we are supporting President Karzai's democratically elected government as it seeks to establish a transformed and modern state that delivers services for all.

The UK is taking a leading role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan including in the areas of Security Sector Reform - demobilising and disarming the militias; building an accountable national army and national police force under democratic control; tackling the widespread drugs trade; building a legal system; developing an independent media; and supporting recognition of human rights.

Of course much still needs to be done. The next critical step in Afghanistan's future is the Parliamentary elections planned for 18 September 2005. And I wish them very well. Afghanistan is an extraordinary country. Those who voted (40% of whom were women) were very brave and they deserve the support of all of us.

I recognise that one of the foreign policy issues which continues to be a point of anguish for many is the war in Bosnia. Jack Straw attended the anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre on 11 July. He did so both to mourn the thousands of victims and to condemn those who were responsible for the massacre.

It is to the shame of the international community that the evil of Srebrenica took place in view of the world and that we did not do enough to prevent it. The UK bitterly regrets this, and we are deeply sorry for it.

    Distinguished guests,

Some commentators have suggested that the London attacks were a consequence of the UK's Iraq policy. A country is not immune from attack because it did not support military action in Iraq. Let us look at the list of countries that terrorists have attacked in the last year alone: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Kashmir. None of these countries supported military action in Iraq. As for the UK we were openly identified as a target by Al Qa'ida long before the invasion of Iraq. Before, even, the terrible attack in New York on 9/11.

In Iraq, the elections in January demonstrated the Iraqi people's determination to take control of their future, in the face of terrorist violence, to install a democratically elected government for the first time in their history. The new administration in Iraq is not perfect. The Sunni minority needs to be better integrated into the new structures. But there is at last a government in Baghdad which speaks for the majority, which is committed to achieving inter-communal harmony and which is working to restore stability and economic growth. It, and the people of Iraq, deserve our support as they reach out towards a better future.

And a final point on Iraq. The terrorists are not in Iraq to liberate it. They seek to impose their violent will on the Iraqi people – rather as Saddam Hussein did for decades with murderous consequences for many tens of thousands of Iraqis. Our duty is to help them enjoy the freedom we take for granted.

The UK does not have a monopoly on answers. We look to our international partners such as Malaysia for advice and guidance, especially on this troubling problem of how best to turn the alienated youth of the world towards peace and inter-religious harmony. As we look at this issue from London, we see your Prime Minister's concept of 'Islam Hadhari' as an important contribution. His ideas have resonated through the world's Muslim communities, chiming as they do with similar suggestions from others such as the President of Pakistan and the President of Indonesia. We hope, as these ideas are developed further within the OIC, that there will be scope for expanding co-operation across religions and national divisions. The ASEM conference in Bali on Inter-Faith Relations, co-chaired by the UK and Malaysia, was just such an initiative. We in London believe that we can build on these various ideas and initiatives to reinforce moderation in religion and the rejection of violence, as part of the global effort to defeat the evil that is terrorism.

  • Let me conclude by saying that there is no quick fix to the problem of terrorism.

The international community will have to work increasingly closely to prevent, pursue, protect and prepare for terrorist attacks. But of these four, the first, Prevent, has to be our particular focus for the longer term. For if we fail to find the means to prevent violence, the consequences for international stability will be profound. That, distinguished guests, is the UK's approach to the battle against terrorism. The 'Four ‘P's' are the pillars of our national Counter Terrorism Strategy. They define and drive the work of our security agencies, police, civil servants and diplomats; and of course our work with foreign partners. They create a coherent framework; and they remind us that one pillar alone will not support our objective. We can't successfully pursue every terrorist today, so we must necessarily protect and prepare. But if we want to bring this world-wide scourge to an end we must find the means to prevent its use by tackling it at source.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).

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