'Nothing justifies terrorism', UN chief says

‘In 2016, most deaths caused by terrorism were in just five states: Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria and Somalia’

'Nothing justifies terrorism', UN chief says United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres arrives to make a speech on “Counter-terrorism and human rights” at School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, England on November 16, 2017. ( Tayfun Salcı - Anadolu Agency )

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal


Terrorism should not be associated with any religion, ethnicity or race, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Thursday in a major speech delivered at SOAS University of London.

“Let me be clear from the outset: nothing justifies terrorism…Nothing can ever excuse the indiscriminate targeting of civilians, the wanton destruction of lives and livelihoods and the creation of panic for its own sake,” he said, underscoring there is no excuse for terrorism.

Guterres said no country could claim immunity from the threat of terrorism as “modern terrorism is being waged on an entirely different scale. It is notable for its geographic span”.

Emphasizing that terrorist attacks have increased in the past 10 years parallel to intensified conflicts, he said that last year, at least 11,000 terrorist attacks occurred in more than 100 countries, resulting in more than 25,000 deaths and 33,000 people injured.

Guterres said while the focus of the terrorism threat is in the West, nearly three quarters of all terrorism-related deaths were in just five states last year: Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria and Somalia.

The global economic impact of terrorism is estimated to have reached $90 billion in 2015, “but this cost may be far higher”, he said, adding in 2015, terrorism costs amounted to 17.3 percent of GDP in Iraq and 16.8 percent in Afghanistan.

Human rights

Guterres said “human rights are a true recognition of our common humanity. They unite people, while terrorism thrives on divisions.”

He went on to say that “terrorism is fundamentally the denial and destruction of human rights,” and “the fight against terrorism will never succeed by perpetuating the same denial and destruction”.

“We must relentlessly fight terrorism to protect human rights,” he added.

No excuse

The UN Secretary General said “terrorism should not be associated with any religion, ethnicity or race” and “there is no excuse for terrorism. Let me stress this once more.”

“Article 5 of the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism Bombings states that ‘such criminal acts … are under no circumstances justifiable by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature’.

“Contrary to the propaganda of terrorist groups, terrorist acts are not legitimate murders, but murders plain and simple, and as such criminal acts.”

Guterres said the terrorist groups exploit conflict zones and ungoverned territories and the lack of development and inclusive governance, including extreme poverty, inequality, as well as exclusion and discrimination are also drivers for terrorism and violent extremism.

Also underscoring that the “internet has become an asset for terrorist groups to disseminate violent extremist propaganda, recruiting new converts and raising money,” Guterres said it was first used in the 90’s by white supremacists in the U.S. to reach a wider audience easily and more inexpensively, giving a voice to many forms of racism and anti-Semitism.

Five priorities

Guterres suggested five key counter-terrorism priorities while underscoring how respect for human rights and the rule of law will secure long-term benefits.

They are much stronger international cooperation on counter-terrorism, a sustained focus on prevention, investment in young people as a major element of any prevention strategy, to win the battle of ideas, and to lift up the voices of the victims of terrorism.

“At the heart of darkness”, we should build a new age of enlightenment, he said.

“The foundations of our global order are the strongest protection we have against this scourge,” he said, adding we can only win this fight by upholding people’s dignity and worth.

Urging the leaders of the world for action beyond security measures, Guterres said “we need education and social cohesion”.

“That is how young people keep from false illusions afar and become clear-thinking and enlightened citizens."

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