Expected Council Action
In May, the Council is scheduled to hold a briefing on the implementation of resolution 2178 on the growing threat of foreign terrorist fighters. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius is expected to preside and justice and interior ministers of Council members’ governments have been invited to attend. Expected to brief on UN counter-terrorism efforts are the Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, and the chairs of the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen (New Zealand), and the 1373 Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaitė (Lithuania). Secretary-General of INTERPOL Jürgen Stock will also brief the Council. The adoption of a presidential statement is the likely outcome.
According to the Analytical Support and Monitoring Team of the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee, there are around 25,000 foreign terrorist fighters from more than half the countries in the world involved with listed Al-Qaida affiliates. Although the phenomenon is not new, these numbers are higher than ever, in particular in Iraq and Syria, with a growing problem also evident in Libya.
This debate follows the 23 April open debate on “The role of youth in countering violent extremism” organised by Jordan which signalled the limits of military and police solutions when dealing with the phenomenon of young people leaving their homes to join a violent extremist movement. Several speakers highlighted the importance of addressing socio-economic exclusion, amplifying local alternative narratives and providing youth with opportunities to realise their expectations.
On 24 September 2014, the Council held a summit meeting chaired by US President Barack Obama on this issue. Resolution 2178, which was adopted unanimously at the meeting, included several innovations to the Council’s counter-terrorism framework. It came up with a definition of foreign terrorist fighters as individuals who travel or attempt to travel to a state other than their states of residence or nationality “for the purpose of the perpetration, planning, or preparation of, or participation in, terrorist acts, or the providing or receiving of terrorist training”. The resolution also introduced an international obligation which required member states to establish criminal offenses so that would-be terrorist fighters could be prosecuted for their intention to travel in order to participate in terrorist acts.
This obligation requires member states that have “credible information that provides reasonable grounds to believe” that a certain individual might become a foreign terrorist fighter to prevent the entry or transit through their territories. An 18 February report by the CTC’s Executive Directorate (CTED) raised some of the issues that prosecutors of cases against these fighters face, including finding admissible evidence to support such cases, proving criminal intent and converting intelligence into evidence.
On 19 November 2014, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop presided over a high-level open debate on counter-terrorism. A presidential statement was adopted reiterating the Council’s call for member states to make use of INTERPOL databases and to require that airlines under their jurisdiction provide advance passenger information to national authorities.
On 12 February the Council adopted resolution 2199 targeting some of the sources of funding of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and Al-Nusra Front. The resolution imposes a new legal obligation on member states to prevent the trade in cultural property illegally removed from Syria since 15 March 2011. Given the evidence that vehicles departing from or going to areas held by ISIS or Al-Nusra could be used to transfer economic resources for sale on international markets or barter for arms, the resolution encourages neighbouring member states to prevent and disrupt activity that would result in violations of the asset freeze and targeted arms embargo and to report to the 1267/1989 Committee within 30 days of the interdiction in their territory.
The 1267/1989 Committee has focused its work on responding to the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters. At least 11 of the 31 new listings by the 1267/1989 Committee since September 2014 are related to this phenomenon. At press time, two reports from the Monitoring Team were expected to be released, including one on the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters.
Counter-Terrorism Committee Developments
The CTC has adopted its work programme for 2015, which includes holding two special meetings to discuss ways to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and to prevent terrorists from exploiting the Internet and social media, while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms. The CTED is expected to report to the CTC on gaps in the use of advance passenger information and make recommendations to expand its use as well as to identify principal gaps in member states’ capacities to implement Council resolutions 1373 and 1624 that may hinder states’ abilities to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters. (Resolution 1373 of 28 September 2001 obligates states to criminalise the financing of terrorism and recruitment for terrorist groups, and resolution 1624 of 14 September 2005 calls upon member states to prohibit by law the incitement to commit terrorist acts.)
A key issue for the Council is devising an effective global framework to address the growing challenges related to foreign terrorist fighters. Making sure that counter-terrorism activities worldwide are undertaken with due respect for international human rights norms, including due process guarantees, is an ongoing related issue.
Another key issue is how to combine a coercive approach against terrorism with measures aimed at promoting non-violent expression of political claims and reducing sympathy and support for violent extremism.
A further related issue is to ensure that there is coherence between the Council’s subsidiary bodies in charge of assessing the implementation of relevant resolutions by member states and the provision of technical assistance by bilateral and multilateral partners, such as the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) and the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre.
The Council could adopt a presidential statement that:
- calls for the formalisation of coordination mechanisms between the CTED and the CTITF;
- reiterates the need to develop counter-terrorism strategies with due respect for international human rights norms;
- requests member states to actively update the Council on the implementation of resolution 2178; and
- underscores the critical need not only to prevent radicalisation and build resilience among communities most at risk of recruitment, including youth, but to have policies in place to mitigate the potential negative impact of returning terrorist fighters and provide opportunities for their reintegration.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Counter-terrorism appears to be one of the issues generating unanimous support among Council members, as well as high visibility for Council actions. Most of the differences among Council members are related not as much to this particular topic but to its scope and potential for political misuse. This has been the case in previous negotiations on whether the Council should refer to tackling extremism also when it does not result in violence, which some Council members perceived as outside the mandate of the Council. Also, some Council members have stressed in the past that the 1267/1989 Committee should take the lead in tackling foreign terrorist fighters rather than the CTC, which has a broader scope. Some Council members seem aware of the rule of law dimension to counter-terrorism efforts and have advocated in the past for the inclusion of references to member states’ compliance with domestic law and international law, including human rights law when fulfilling their international counter-terrorism obligations and in their domestic counter-terrorism policies.
UN DOCUMENTS ON COUNTER-TERRORISM
|Security Council Resolutions|
|12 February 2015 S/RES/2199||Was on ISIS and Al-Nusra’s illicit funding via oil exports, traffic of cultural heritage, ransom payments and external donations.|
|24 September 2014 S/RES/2178||This resolution expanded the counter-terrorism framework by imposing obligations on member states to respond to the threat of foreign terrorist fighters.|
|15 August 2014 S/RES/2170||Condemned the recruitment by ISIS and al-Nusra of foreign fighters and listed six individuals affiliated with those groups under the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida sanctions regime.|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|19 November 2014 S/PRST/2014/23||This was a presidential statement that focused on international cooperation in combating terrorism and addressed the interrelated threats posed by foreign terrorist fighters, violent extremism, Al-Qaida, and the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|23 April 2015 S/PV.7432||This was a high-level open debate on “the role of youth in countering violent extremism and promoting peace,” chaired by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdulla II of Jordan.|
|19 November 2014 S/PV.7316||This was a high-level open debate on counter-terrorism.|
|24 September 2014 S/PV.7272||This was a summit-level debate chaired by US President Barack Obama on counter-terrorism.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|7 November 2014 S/2014/807||This was the report of the 1373 Counter-Terrorism Committee on member state capacity to implement resolution 2178 on foreign terrorist fighters.|
|3 November 2014 S/2014/815||This was the report of the Monitoring Team of the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida sanctions regime on the sources of ISIS and Al-Nusrah Front’s recruitment, funding and arms.|
|Security Council Letter|
|18 February 2015 S/2015/123||This was a report on challenges in prosecutions related to foreign terrorist fighters.|