TERROR THREATS IN EUROPE: Hunt for terrorists continues, following World Unity March in Paris

In an unprecedented show of support and unity on the streets of Paris on Sunday, January 11, world leaders linked arms to stand up for freedom of expression and solidarity against terrorism to remember the 17 victims, including journalists, killed at a controversial French magazine Charlie Hebdo, four French Jews at a Kosher supermarket, and three police officers. However, what happens next on the streets of Europe is anybody’s guess

Shown here is the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, at the UN Office in Geneva. This office held a special ceremony to honor the people killed in the January terrorist attack at the Paris offices of the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo. As the High Commissioner for Human Rights stated, “If this attack is allowed to feed discrimination and prejudice, it will be playing straight into the hands of extremists.” UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferre
Shown here is the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, at the UN Office in Geneva. This office held a special ceremony to honor the people killed in the January terrorist attack at the Paris offices of the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo. As the High Commissioner for Human Rights stated, “If this attack is allowed to feed discrimination and prejudice, it will be playing straight into the hands of extremists.” UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferre

Security has been tightened in Belgium now, particularly at Jewish sites, and the presence of hundreds of troops.

Just days after the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, the focus has shifted to Brussels, Belgium, headquarters of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Following a foiled terror plot, security is now being stepped up at foreign embassies, Jewish sites, and government buildings, in Brussels and Antwerp, Belgium.  Hundreds of troops, including military and police, are now positioned across Belgium.

Among the world leaders who linked arms or  showed support in Paris were French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela  Merkel of Germany,  Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Palestinian Authority President, Mahmood Abbas, President of Mali,  Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and former Prime Minister of Poland.

Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma,  Estonian Foreign Minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, and Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Linas Linkevicius, represented the Baltic States at the Paris Unity March, and  Secretary-General of NATO, and former Norwegian Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, and Prime Minister of Denmark, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, participated in this march, as well, along with the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, and many other prominent leaders . Ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, represented the United States in Paris.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said at the rally in Paris that “Ukraine understands the pain of France as nobody else.” Photo: The Baltic Review
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said at the rally in Paris that “Ukraine understands the pain of France as nobody else.” Photo: The Baltic Review

It was estimated that over 40 government leaders showed their support in Paris, and that more than 3 million people marched in rallies across France, many carrying the signs, “Je suis Charlie.”

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stated that “Ukraine understands the pain of France as nobody else. The March of Unity has united all civilized countries of the world in France.”

The President said “I believe that humanism and unity will always overcome terror.” According to Ukrainian President Poroshenko, “the participants of the march expressed their solidarity with ideas of reedom of speech, freedom of thought. Rejection of terrorism, and called for tolerance, peace, and struggle against terrorism in all its manifestations.”

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the march that took place in Paris in memory of the victims of the terrorist’s attacks in the city.

Mr.  Staffon de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, represented the United Nations at the march and joined in expressing the organization’s revulsion for terrorism.

“The Secretary-General is strongly committed to the essential work of countering extremism, fighting anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination, and upholding the rights to freedom of speech and expression.

He also said in the aftermath of the  week’s events in Paris, he warns, in particular, against targeting Muslims for reprisals  In addition, Ban Ki-moon renewed his condolences to the families of the victims of the attacks and said he had  been deeply moved by the images of the march and the display of global solidarity.

The UN Secretary-General also signed the Book of Condolences at the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (seated) signing a book of condolences at the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations. Pictured behind Mr. Ban is Deputy-Secretary General Jan Eliasson (left) and Ambassador Francois Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations in New York. UN Photo/Evan Schneider
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (seated) signing a book of condolences at the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations. Pictured behind Mr. Ban is Deputy-Secretary General Jan Eliasson (left) and Ambassador Francois Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations in New York. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

On January 9, in tribute to the victims of the terror attack in France, Lithuanian President Grybauskaitė condolences at the French embassy in Vilnius.   The Lithuanian President strongly condemned the deadly assault against the French magazine Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, and underlined that “violence would never silence free speech or trample democratic values.”

Dalia Grybauskaite, President of the Republic of Lithuania. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas.
Dalia Grybauskaite, President of the Republic of Lithuania. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas.

It was on January 7, the day that the UN Secretary-General met with the  President of the UN Correspondents Association, Giampalo Paoli,  and UN Correspondents belonging to UNCA, including “Baltic Review” that  Ban Ki-moon made this statement: “I want to express my outrage at the despicable attack today against the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo. It was a horrendous, unjustifiable and cold-blooded crime. It was also a direct assault on a cornerstone of democracy, on the media, and freedom of expression.  I extend my deepest condolences to the families and my best wishes to all those injured. We stand with the Government and people of France.”

Here we see UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivering a statement to UN Correspondents on the cold-blooded crime against the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo, in the UNCA Club at UN Headquarters in New York. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Here we see UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivering a statement to UN Correspondents on the cold-blooded crime against the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo, in the UNCA Club at UN Headquarters in New York. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The UN Secretary-General added, “I trust that the French authorities will do all in their power to bring the perpetrators to justice quickly. This horrific attack is meant to divide.

We must not fall into that trap. This is a moment for solidarity. Around the world, we must stand strong for freedom  of expression, and tolerance and stand against forces of division and hate. “

In addition, Mr Ban’s comments were echoed by other UN senior officials, including the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, who also spoke out against what he described as “an appalling and ruthless attack, while underlining the importance of arresting and punishing those responsible and refraining from attaching blame to any wider group. “

“I utterly condemn the appalling and ruthless attack on media workers and police officers in Paris earlier today,” he said, and “urge anyone who has information that could help to locate the individuals who planned or carried out this hideous crime to immediately bring it to the attention of the French authorities, before other lives are lost.  I offer my heartfelt condolences to the people of France, especially the families, friends, and colleagues of these who were shot in cold blood in their offices and of those critically injured in hospitals.”

The High Commissioner for Human Rights emphasized that “freedom of expression and opinion are a cornerstone for any democratic society.

That trying to divide communities on grounds of religions, ethnicity, or any other reason must not be allowed to succeed.   The rule of law must unite as in standing firm against such terrorist acts.  The rule of law also requires that we seek to arrest and punish those directly responsible for carrying out, planning or acting as accomplices to specific crimes and do not attach blame to any wider group.”

He went on to say, “if this attack is allowed to feed discrimination and prejudice, it will be playing straight into the hands of extremists, whose clear aim is to divide religions and societies. With xenophobia and anti-migrant sentiments already on the rise in Europe, I am very concerned that this awful calculated act will be exploited by extremists of all sorts.”

In addition, Irena Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said that she was horrified by “the attack against the media and against freedom of expression.” She added, “never before has one media outlet been so deliberately targeted and its staff decimated in an act of such extreme violence.”  The head of UNESCO who joined world leaders in the Paris unity march also stated: “We must bolster all our work in education, in promoting dialogue, and understanding between cultures and religions.”

The UN Security Council called the attack “barbaric and cowardly”, and President of the UN General Assembly Sam Kutesa condemned the attack in the strongest of terms.

Mr. Kutesa conveyed his deepest sympathy and condolences to the affected families, the Government and people of France, and expressed the solidarity of the United Nations General Assembly.

Ann Charles
Ann Charles is UN Bureau Chief of “Baltic Review” based in New York City. She covers diplomatic activities at United Nations Headquarters in New York and the world body’s work in human rights, education, culture, the environment, and tourism, among other global concerns.