Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
January 12, 2021
Thank you, Mr. Minister, and thank you to the Tunisian delegation for organizing this important meeting. I also want to thank our three briefers for their useful and insightful presentations, especially Executive Director Akiluis, whose comments on the relationship between civil society and government in countering terrorism were very interesting and very important. I also just want to say how much I have gained, and my delegation appreciates the comments, the recommendations, the actions that have been recommended by the colleagues that have spoken before us, and these principles and actions and recommendations will certainly inform my delegation’s work with all of you in the coming months and years on this issue.
Finally, it’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since the horrific events of 9/11, but I just want to begin by remembering the innocent lives lost that day – all victims of terrorism. As well as remember, with gratitude, the heroic actions of the first responders who saved so many lives on 9/11.
As we have all heard, in the aftermath of that horrific day, the United States penned Resolution 1373 and this Council swiftly united to adopt this pivotal resolution to prevent such devastating attacks and help the international community fight terrorism globally.
Our view is that the Resolution has been successful. It drove all member states to adequately criminalize terrorism and it provided a useful roadmap for building the needed national, regional, and international capabilities to counter terrorism.
Weaknesses in all of our bureaucracies and all of our security practices were brought to light. And all of the Member States, including the United States, used that information to strengthen their counterterrorism infrastructures. We learned that we needed new tools to fight terrorism and we learned the hard way that we needed to change the way our governments shared terrorist information internally and externally with partners.
I think most importantly, at the time, we committed to address this transnational threat together, with whole-of-government, whole-of-society approaches, hand-in-hand with partner governments, civil society, international partners, private sector partners, and with the full and equal participation of women and youth.
The Council, as we’ve heard, also established the Counterterrorism Committee, the CTC, to monitor and assist Member States. Then in 2004, the Council created CTED, to support the Committee and assist all UN Member States to fully implement Resolution 1373 and other counterterrorism resolutions.
Today, the U.S. government’s view is those investments have paid off. CTED has been instrumental in this process. Its visits, its resulting reports from those visits, provide Member States with a path to enhance their ability to implement the Council’s resolutions and, we believe, comprehensively prevent and counter terrorism and violent extremism.
That is why the CTC must continue to play an important role in protecting CTED’s independent reporting process and ensuring the Council’s credibility is not eroded by politicized censorship. The Council and its CTC must further support CTED in its efforts to assist Member States and to ensure no one is left behind.
Twenty years into this global fight we’ve made tremendous progress, but there’s still much to do. As many of my colleagues have just commented, the terrorism threat continues, it continues to morph and evolve, and we must adjust and redouble our efforts to prevent future attacks.
While our coalition destroyed ISIS on the battlefield in Syria and Iraq, tens of thousands of foreign terrorist fighters and their families, including children living in untenable conditions, remain in camps and have not been repatriated.
The United States has repatriated a total of 28 Americans from Syria and Iraq – 12 adults and 16 children, with six of those adults now facing criminal charges. We believe repatriating foreign terrorist fighters to their countries of origin is the most reasonable solution to prevent them from returning to the battlefield. It is not only the right thing to do from a security standpoint, but also from a humanitarian standpoint. The current situation in these camps is untenable and we believe we can all, all of us, do better.
Let me also say in response to comments from colleagues, the United States takes the threat from racially or ethnically motivated terrorist attacks very seriously, and we continue to take action to combat that particular form of terrorism. Last year, for the first time, the State Department designated a white supremacist group as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.
As colleagues have mentioned, history has also shown us over and over again that measures to prevent and counter terrorism that come at the expense of human rights and the rule of law are counterproductive. That is why the United States will continue to object to certain countries’ actions to engage in mass detention of religious minorities and members of other minorities, engage in repressive surveillance and mass data collection, and to use coercive population control like forced sterilization and abortion. Governments, including governments sadly represented in this Council, must not use counterterrorism as a pretext for stifling freedom of religion or belief and other human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Let me end by saying again, we thank Tunisia for your able chairmanship of the Counterterrorism Committee, we look forward to working closely with this Council as we prepare for the Global Counterterrorism Strategy Review and the CTED mandate renewal later this year. We have made so much progress since the adoption of 1373, but much remains to be done, as we’ve heard, and we must continue adapting to keep our communities safe.
Thank you, Mr. President.