Federal Council takes note of report on combating jihadist-motivated terrorism in Switzerland

Bern, 02.11.2015 - The Federal Council has taken note of the second report on combating jihadist-motivated terrorism in Switzerland. It welcomes the progress made so far by the security services and acknowledges the importance of coordination. The council will consider strengthening preventive measures by the police, such as stopping suspected jihadists from leaving Switzerland. For this purpose, it has appointed the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) to carry out an evaluation. Moreover, it reiterates the importance of civil society structures in countering radicalisation, and advocates building on these existing structures rather than creating new ones.

According to the Federal Intelligence Service (FIS), the terrorist threat in Switzerland, as in the rest of Europe, has risen slightly over the already heightened level of January 2015. Jihadist-motivated travel to Syria continues, not just by men but more recently by women and children too. These European-wide developments are also evident in Switzerland.

Since the publication of the first TETRA report in February 2015, the security services have intensified coordination at all levels and made notable progress. The Federal Office of Police (fedpol) and the FIS are currently dealing with approximately seventy cases involving jihadist-motivated terrorism. In more than twenty of these cases, the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) has opened criminal proceedings and will begin submitting the first indictments to the Federal Criminal Court this autumn.

Awareness and cooperation

To help identify individuals undergoing radicalisation, greater efforts have been made to raise awareness among, and provide better training to the cantonal police, Border Guard Corps and consular services. To facilitate coordination at national level and be able to respond to the threat more effectively, the cantonal police rely on the existing structures of the Conference of Swiss Cantonal Police Commanders. These structures have been strengthened by establishing a Police Management Support Staff to become active in the event of a terrorist attack or other major incident. Moreover, Switzerland has intensified coordination and cooperation at international level, for example by ratifying the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism.

There are still issues to be addressed. One of these concerns introducing measures to prevent suspected jihadists from leaving Switzerland. The Federal Council has therefore charged the FDJP with the task of assessing how effective such measures may be and what consequences they may have. The assessment should also take into account a possible amendment to statutory provisions allowing police alerts on suspected terrorists.

Fighting terrorism not just the job of the security services

The work performed by the security services is indispensable. However, it is only one aspect of fighting terrorism. Tackling radicalisation, the source of terrorism, is a task that goes beyond the scope of their work. From experience in Switzerland and abroad it is clear that radicalisation must be tackled at grass-roots level, for example through social workers, educators and families within local communities. In this regard, the communes and cantons with their well-established structures have a pivotal role to play. Instead of creating new structures, the Federal Council is keen to draw on existing ones, adapting them to address the problem of radicalisation. The council also endorses strengthening the exchange of experience and expertise, and making better use of synergies. For this reason it has decided against establishing a permanent national helpline.

In collaboration with intercantonal conferences and the appropriate cantonal authorities, the Delegate of the National Security Network Switzerland (NSNS) is to conduct a survey of measures already in place for countering radicalisation. The aim of the survey is to draw on best practices and further develop preventive measures within civil society.

Composition and mandate of the TETRA taskforce

The TETRA taskforce (TErrorist TRAvellers) is an interdisciplinary working group appointed by the Security Core Group of Switzerland and led by fedpol. The group is made up of representatives from the FIS, the OAG, the Directorate of Political Affairs and the Directorate of International Law at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, the Border Guard Corps, the State Secretariat for Migration, the Federal Office of Justice, the Zurich Airport Police, the NSNS and cantonal police commanders. The objectives of the task force are to prevent terrorist attacks in Switzerland, to ensure that Switzerland is not used as a place for planning or providing logistical support for terrorist attacks, and to protect the Schengen Area. These goals are consistent with Switzerland's counterterrorism strategy, which was approved by the Federal Council on 18 September 2015.

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