Statement by Sweden at the UN Security Council Briefing on Threats to International Peace and Security caused by Terrorist Acts: Foreign Terrorist Fighters


National Statement delivered by Ambassador Irina Schoulgin-Nyoni on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on Threats to International Peace and Security caused by Terrorist Acts: Foreign Terrorist Fighters, 28 November 2017, New York.

Mr. President,

Let me begin by thanking the United States for initiating today's important briefing. I also thank Under Secretary-General Voronkov, Assistant Secretary-General Coninsx and Ambassador Umarov for their valuable contributions to our discussion.

The threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters touches all countries and is constantly evolving. In the case of Sweden, of the approximately 300 Swedish citizens who left the country to join terrorist groups in Syria or Iraq, we estimate that half have so far returned; fifty have died in conflict and fifty are still outside of Sweden. The profile of returnees is mixed: men, women, and children; some disillusioned, others still ideologically committed.

Mr. President,

It is the obligation of all member states to criminalize foreign terrorist fighter travel, training and financing. In Sweden, we have amended existing criminal legislation on terrorism to address the evolving threat and to meet the penal law requirements outlined in resolution 2178 (2014). The amendments entered into force last year and contain new provisions for terrorist travel, terrorist training and financing. Next year the legislation will be tightened even further, including through an expanded terrorist offence.

Since 2015, we have tried and convicted seven individuals for terrorism-related offences, including for crimes committed abroad. Thus far, one person has been prosecuted under the new amended legislation on terrorism travel.

Mr. President,

We recognize the important work being undertaken by both UN actors and civil society in trying to better address the root causes of violent extremism. We co-sponsored the groundbreaking UNDP-report "Journey to violent extremism", which was launched in September. The report concluded that the main underlying reasons for recruitment are not religion and ideology, but socio-economic conditions and a break-down of the rule of law.

With this in mind, we have sought to address the issue of foreign terrorist fighters - through a whole-of-government approach, involving, amongst others,police, social services, prison and probation services at the municipal, regional and national levels.

As part of our strong focus on prevention, we are putting in place mechanisms aimed at safeguarding individuals; targeting, in particular, those at risk of radicalization. A new national Center for the Prevention of Violent Extremism will be launched in the New Year. New guidelines are being issued by our National Board of Health and Welfare to municipalities and practitioners dealing with returnees and defectors.

Mr. President,

Resolution 2178 (2014) provides a robust policy framework to address the challenges of foreign terrorist fighters. We would, however, welcome a new Security Council resolution to address the new trends and challenges and look forward to engaging with other Council members in the upcoming negotiations.

The situation of children in terrorist-related activities needs to be paid particular attention. Children's full enjoyment of their human rights must be safeguarded. Children returning from armed forces and, or, groups must be provided with proper community-based support in order to avoid stigmatization and future radicalization. Children should always be treated primarily as victims.

Amongst Swedish foreign terrorist fighters, several have been women. We would like to see an integrated gender approach in the new resolution and reiterate the multiple roles played by women in relation to terrorism, including as perpetrators, supporters, facilitators, victims and preventers. The global framework and programmes for preventing violent extremism and countering terrorism need to reflect this reality.

Mr. President,

As the Secretary-General told the General Assembly last September: 'As soon as we believe that violations of human rights and democratic freedoms are necessary to win the fight, we might have lost the war.' For this reason, in all measures to combat terrorism, states must comply with their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights law, international refugee law, and international humanitarian law, as well as the principle of rule of law.

Collaboration between countries and with partners across the globe will be central to defeating the terrorist threat. Sweden remains fully committed and will continue to play its part in this global effort.

Thank you.


Lisa Laskaridis
Head of Press and Communication, Permanent Mission of Sweden to the UN
Phone +1 212 583 2543
Mobile +1 917 239 0941
email to Lisa Laskaridis