Freedom and security: a sometimes delicate balance

Like any academic institution, CERN celebrates freedom: freedom of expression, freedom of thought and freedom of movement. Occasionally, however, circumstances beyond our control oblige us to impose certain restrictions.


Friday, 26 June was just such an occasion. On that day, terrorists chose to commit unfathomable atrocities in France, near Lyon, as well as in Kuwait and Tunisia. The brutality exhibited in all three attacks is beyond comprehension, and I am sure that we all feel for the victims and all those touched by these hideous acts.

At times such as this, and on the basis of information that I receive from external agencies, it is my responsibility as Director-General to decide whether measures are needed at CERN, and to apply them at an appropriate level if I deem it necessary. On Friday, based on the information I had at my disposal, I decided that the situation merited extra vigilance at the entrances to CERN for the sake of ensuring the safety and security of everyone on site. I therefore chose to reinforce access control.

Many of you experienced this, and the overwhelming majority of you accepted the minor inconvenience it caused with patience and courtesy. However, it has been brought to my attention that there were several incidents of aggressive behaviour towards the security personnel at the gates. This is unacceptable. It is in breach of this Organization’s values and, more formally, it is in breach of our Code of Conduct. As such, any confirmed instances of physical or verbal abuse of security personnel will be dealt with accordingly. After all, another important freedom, in addition to those I’ve already mentioned, is the freedom to carry out one’s professional duties in an atmosphere of respect, free from abuse of any kind.

Rolf Heuer