Tribune de Genève.
The Swiss government recently published its third report on how to combat attacks by jihadists.
The report, named TETRA, opens with a description of the terrorist attack in Berlin where a truck was driven into a crowded Christmas market killing 12 people. It then set outs the concerns experts have about the emergence of “low cost” terrorism. “It can strike anyone, anywhere, anytime” explained Nicoletta della Valle, director of Switzerland’s Federal Office of Police (fedpol). “A truck, a knife, these are easy attacks to organise that don’t cost much. This strategy reduces the possibilities for the authorities to detect the early warning signs of an attack. Attack preparation time becomes extremely short” she said.
The 70 page report sets out measures taken to combat jihadist terror attacks. In addition, it points out short comings, such as a lack of legal grounds for stopping young Swiss leaving the country to engage in jihad, and the difficulties around foreign information exchange when Swiss bank accounts are suspected of being used to finance terrorism.
At the end of 2016, 497 internet users were on the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service’s (FIS) radar. Some had published jihadist material, others were being targeted for communicating with individuals sharing these kinds of ideas. These people are not necessarily a threat to security. “Very soon we we will produce information on those presenting a risk” said Markus Seiler, a director of FIS.
When it becomes clear someone has been radicalised, the FIS starts an inquiry, which can lead to measures that sometimes lead to expulsion, when a foreigner is involved. The FIS’s work has been aided by recent new laws, which make it easier to gather information. “When someone appears on the radar, it is often already too late” said Nicoletta della Valle. “We must catch radicalisation early on.” A national action plan against radicalism and violent extremism is being put together.
After a steep rise over recent years, the number is stable. Since 2001, the FIS identified 83 travelling for jihad. The FIS refused to give details on these individuals. Among the 83, 30 have Swiss passports, 18 of whom are dual nationals. Destination countries include mainly Syria and Irak but also Somalia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some are still there, around a quarter of them are dead.
“We have not yet seen a wave of individuals returning” said Markus Seiler, “But we are expecting it”, which begs the question of rehabilitation. Currently, 80 police inquiries are underway, 70 of which have triggered legal proceedings.
Swiss federal law bans the groups Al-Qaida and Islamic State along with affiliate groups. The law came into force on 1 January 2015 and lasts until 31 December 2018. “The minimum applicable penalty is under discussion” said Michael Lauber, Switzerland’s attorney general. The Office of the Attorney General thinks five years is insufficient.