Expected Council Action
In February, Under-Secretary-General Vladimir Voronkov, the head of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, will brief the Security Council on the Secretary-General’s strategic-level report on the threat emanating from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or Da’esh), followed by consultations.
The Council will also discuss a report from the 1373 Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) on the implementation of resolution 2341 concerning critical infrastructure.
The Council held an open debate on the protection of critical infrastructure against terrorist attacks on 13 February 2017, during the presidency of Ukraine. The country’s Foreign Minister, Pavlo Klimkin, chaired the session. Briefings were given by the Secretary-General’s Chef de Cabinet, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti; Jürgen Stock, the Secretary-General of the International Criminal Police Organization (via video teleconference); Hamid Ali Rao, Deputy Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons; Chris Trelawny, Special Adviser on Maritime Security and Facilitation to the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization; and Olli Heinonen, Senior Advisor on Science and Non-proliferation at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former Deputy Director-General of the IAEA.
At that meeting, the Council adopted resolution 2341 directing the CTC and the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) to continue as appropriate, within their respective mandates, to examine member states’ efforts to protect critical infrastructure from terrorist attacks. In addition, the resolution requested the CTC to provide an update on its implementation to the Council in 12 months.
Resolution 2253, adopted on 17 December 2015, requested the Secretary-General to provide strategic-level reports every four months about the threat emanating from ISIL (Da’esh), including from foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) joining ISIL and associated groups and entities, FTFs returning to their countries of origin, and the sources of financing of these groups. In resolution 2368 of 20 July 2017, the Council requested the Secretary-General to produce the report every six months in collaboration with the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team assisting the CTC.
Key Recent Developments
The Council adopted two important resolutions on 21 December 2017. Resolution 2395 renewed the mandate of CTED as a special political mission under the guidance of the CTC until 31 December 2021; and resolution 2396 on FTS and returnees was a follow up to resolution 2178 of September 2014 on fighters travelling to other countries to participate in terrorism.
Resolution 2395 provides a comprehensive text regarding CTED’s full mandate, which now encompasses cross-cutting issues such as FTFs and countering violent extremism. It stresses that the assessment of the implementation of resolution 1373 and other relevant counter-terrorism resolutions is the core function of CTED, and that the analysis and recommendations from these assessments are invaluable. It requests CTED to report to the CTC by 30 March on potential ways to strengthen the assessment process, including by considering targeted and focused follow-up visits and by shortening timelines for reviews of member states and reports where possible.
The resolution also addresses CTED’s functions within the wider UN system, including the relationship between CTED and the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (OCT), established on 15 June 2017 and headed by a new Under-Secretary-General, Vladimir Voronkov. It underscores the importance of strong coordination and cooperation between the two bodies to ensure effective UN engagement with member states to improve the implementation of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, as well as other key counter-terrorism resolutions.
Resolution 2396 focuses on FTFs returning to their countries of origin and imposes several new obligations for states. It obligates states to develop watch lists or databases of known and suspected terrorists, including FTFs, for use by law enforcement and intelligence agencies to screen travellers and to conduct risk assessments and investigations, in compliance with domestic and international law, including human rights law, encouraging states to share this information with other states. It further calls on states to notify other states about the travel or detention of individuals whom they have reasonable grounds to believe are terrorists, including suspected FTFs.
The resolution turns what in September 2014 had been a call on states, expressed in resolution 2178, into a chapter VII obligation whereby the Council decides that states shall require airlines operating in their territories to provide advance passenger information (API) to the appropriate national authorities. (The International Civil Aviation Organisation required member states to establish API systems as of 23 October 2017.)
In addition, states are obligated to develop and implement biometric data systems, which could include fingerprints, photographs, facial recognition, and other relevant identifying biometric data. Furthermore, the resolution calls on states to provide technical assistance to other states for developing biometric data and encourages them to share this data responsibly among relevant states.
States are further called upon “to assess and investigate suspected individuals whom they have reasonable grounds to believe are terrorists, including suspected foreign terrorist fighters and their accompanying family members, including spouses and children”.
Resolution 2396 directs the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) & Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee and the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team to continue to devote special focus to the threat posed by FTFs, in cooperation with other UN bodies. It also directs the CTC, with the assistance of CTED, to continue to identify new good practices in addressing FTFs, and to facilitate technical assistance to states, upon their request, specifically by promoting engagement between providers of capacity-building assistance and recipients.
The CTC met for the first time under the new Chair, Gustavo Meza-Cuadra Velásquez (Peru), on 25 January. The committee discussed its programme of work for 2018 and CTED’s list of country visits for the year.
The 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) & Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee met on 12 January when the Coordinator of the Monitoring Team presented its 21st report, which included analysis of ISIL (Da’esh) funding businesses.
Key Issues and Options
After the renewal of CTED’s mandate, the main issue for the Council is to ensure the widespread implementation of resolution 1373, including the criminalisation of terrorism, the freezing of terrorism-related assets, and effective border and arms control. A related issue is ensuring the implementation of resolution 1624 to prevent acts of incitement to commit terrorism.
Another issue is the relationship between the newly established OCT and CTED and their heads. The Council may wish to ensure that it develops into a fruitful cooperation, particularly with respect to implementation and strengthening the capacity of states’ counter-terrorism capabilities, and enhances the UN’s overall effectiveness in addressing terrorism.
A key issue for the Council is to ensure overall implementation of the Al-Qaida sanctions regime, including targeting those violating the regime by helping terrorist groups improve their operational capabilities. At the same time, mitigating the humanitarian impact of these measures is an important issue to ensure their effectiveness.
With the adoption of resolution 2396, the Council will need to follow up on its implementation, particularly through its subsidiary bodies and CTED, while taking into account capacity gaps between states in implementing sophisticated border control and identification systems.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members are in general agreement about the importance of receiving strategic analysis on ISIL (Da’esh), which can then feed into other counter-terrorism efforts or serve as background for the Council’s counter-terrorism agenda. Several Council members, however, felt that receiving the strategic-level report every four months was excessive, and thus the report will be submitted biannually in accordance with resolution 2368.
The simultaneous and complicated negotiations over the two resolutions adopted in December revealed that some of the divisions among Council members remain entrenched. For example, Russia was adamant that the resolutions refrain from referring to the Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism. Russia has expressed negative views about the plan, asserting that it infringes state sovereignty and is not objective in identifying the root causes of extremism. Instead, the resolutions refer to “countering violent extremism conducive to terrorism”. At the same time, such Council members as France, Italy and particularly Sweden insisted that references to adherence to international law, including human rights law, be inserted in several places in resolution 2396.
The US is the penholder on counter-terrorism.
UN DOCUMENTS ON COUNTER-TERRORISM
|Security Council Resolutions|
|21 December 2017 S/RES/2396||This was a resolution addressing the threat of foreign terrorist fighters.|
|21 December 2017 S/RES/2395||This resolution renewed the mandate of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) until 31 December 2021.|
|20 July 2017 S/RES/2368||This was a resolution renewing and updating the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) & Al-Qaida Sanctions regime. Through an annex to the resolution, eight individuals or organisations were added to the sanctions list.|
|13 February 2017 S/RES/2341||This was a resolution on the protection of critical infrastructure against terrorist threats.|
|17 December 2015 S/RES/2253||This was a resolution strengthening the Al Qaida sanctions regime and focusing on the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The sanctions regime was also renamed the “1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions List” to reflect this focus.|
|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.|
|28 September 2001 S/RES/1373||This resolution placed barriers on the movement, organisation and fund-raising activities of terrorist groups and imposed legislative, policy and reporting requirements on member states to assist the global struggle against terrorism. It also established a Counter-Terrorism Committee to monitor state compliance with these provisions.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|13 February 2017 S/PV.7882||This was a meeting on the protection of critical infrastructure against terrorist attacks.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|5 January 2018 SC/13153||This was a press release condemning the 4 January terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, which resulted in at least 15 people killed and 25 injured.|
|General Assembly Documents|
|15 June 2017 A/RES/71/291||This was a resolution that established the UN Counter-Terrorism Office headed by a new Under-Secretary-General.|