Country Report on Terrorism 2009 - Chapter 2 - Switzerland

The United States worked closely with the Swiss government, the Swiss Bankers’ Association, the Swiss Interagency Counterterrorism Task Force, and cantonal law enforcement authorities on counterterrorism issues. Swiss security services continued to monitor activities of terrorist groups with a presence in Switzerland and to coordinate with appropriate U.S. government officials, though the scope of the coordination is limited. Swiss law severely restricts the level of information-sharing possible on banking issues.

On February 1, the Government of Switzerland implemented a bill incorporating recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The legislation extended the scope of the federal law concerning the fight against money laundering in the financial sector to the fight against terrorist financing.

In 2008, the Government of Switzerland extended for the second time its ban against al-Qa’ida (AQ) and its associate organizations for three years. The ban includes not only all activities by the organization itself, but also all activities in support of the organization. Approximately US$ 17 million in AQ and Taliban assets in 25 separate bank accounts remained frozen.

The Swiss government maintained a list of individuals and organizations connected with international terrorism or terrorist financing, in accordance with UN lists. On October 13, Switzerland and other countries co-sponsored a UN workshop in Vienna to improve domestic and global efforts to prevent terrorism. National representatives from more than 100 UN Member States, as well as counterterrorism experts from regional and international organizations took part in this two-day event. They also exchanged information on national experiences, challenges, and lessons learned in order to more effectively link national and global counterterrorism efforts.

Swiss authorities have thus far blocked about 48 accounts totaling approximately US$ 20.6 million from individuals or companies linked to individuals or entities listed pursuant to relevant UN resolutions. The Swiss Attorney General also separately froze 21 accounts representing about approximately US$ 20.5 million on the grounds that they were related to terrorist financing.

Counterterrorism activities were carried out by several police units: The Federal Criminal Police’s Counterterrorism Division focused on AQ-related cases and employed approximately 20 investigators within two operational units. Of the 130 employees who worked in the Department for Analysis and Prevention in the Federal Office for Police, approximately 12 concentrated on counterterrorism matters, in addition to the roughly 85 cantonal officers focusing on counterterrorism activities.

The Swiss government does not compile lists of prohibited organizations. The sole recent exception has been AQ, which is banned on the basis of UN Security Council decisions. However, terrorism and membership in a terrorist organization are illegal and subject to criminal penalties.[7] Due in part to increased counterterrorism activities in neighboring EU countries, several terrorist organizations, including the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, had a presence in Switzerland. Switzerland does not extradite persons based solely on their membership in a terrorist organization.

In May, the Swiss government announced it would take part in an IMF project aimed at providing technical assistance for developing countries in the global fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.

On September 7-8, the United States and Swiss governments co-hosted an International Bioterrorism Response Coordination Exercise (called “Black ICE II”) in Montreux. This two-day exercise was an opportunity for officials from numerous international and regional organizations and national governments to examine the critical cooperation and coordination issues that would be necessary to respond to an international bioterrorism attack. Black ICE II built on the lessons learned through the original Black ICE I exercise, also held in Montreux, in September 2006.