What's In Blue

Posted Thu 28 May 2015

Briefing and Presidential Statement on Foreign Terrorist Fighters

Tomorrow (29 May), the Security Council will have a ministerial briefing, attended by interior ministers (or their equivalents), to discuss actions taken by member states to counter the flow of foreign terrorist fighters into conflict zones since the adoption of resolution 2178 last September. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius will preside. The briefers will be Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson; Secretary-General of Interpol, JÜrgen Stock; Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaité (Lithuania), the chair of the 1373 Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC); and Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen (New Zealand), the chair of the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee. Following two rounds of negotiations, a presidential statement is expected to be adopted tomorrow.

The concept note circulated by Lithuania highlights that this will be the first time the Council has met in the format of interior ministers and recognises the critical role that interior ministries play in responding to the threat of foreign terrorist fighters to international peace and security (S/2015/324). For the briefing, interior ministers are expected to focus on specific steps that need to be taken by member states to implement resolution 2178 fully.

Eliasson is expected to focus on the extent of the problem of foreign terrorist fighters and its impact in current conflicts, as well as the UN response to this threat. Van Bohemen is expected to brief the Council on a report by the Monitoring Team on foreign terrorist fighters and potential follow-up to its recommendations (S/2015/358). Murmokaité is expected to cover the work of the CTC on this issue, including two recent reports by the CTC’s Executive Directorate (CTED) on challenges in prosecutions related to foreign terrorist fighters (S/2015/123), and on the use of advanced passenger information by member states (S/2015/377). Stock is expected to brief on Interpol’s assistance and services to ensure international cooperation on this issue.

On 24 September 2014, the Council held a summit meeting chaired by US President Barack Obama on the issue of foreign terrorist fighters. Resolution 2178, which was adopted unanimously at the meeting, included several innovations in 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 introduced an international obligation that requires member states to establish criminal offenses so that would-be terrorist fighters can be prosecuted for their intention to travel in order to participate in terrorist acts.

In addition to reiterating the existing counter-terrorism framework and the legal obligations established by the Council, the draft presidential statement identifies priority tasks and places particular emphasis on the need to improve prevention, interdiction, and enforcement efforts through greater international information sharing and timely coordination to prevent the flow of foreign terrorist fighters.

Along these lines, the statement commends member states that have reviewed and, if needed, revised their domestic legislation in the recent past to address foreign terrorist fighters but notes that many other member states have not yet done so sufficiently. At least one Council member interpreted a previous version of this paragraph as being too prescriptive regarding what member states should or should not do in their domestic law and regulations. The same concerns arose concerning language calling on member states to report to Interpol’s foreign terrorist fighter database, and “exchanging information” was agreed to as a compromise.

The draft also notes the limited reporting by member states on the use of advanced passenger information by airlines in order to “support evidence-based traveler risk assessment and screening procedures” and reduce the ability of foreign terrorist fighters to evade detection at their borders. At the request of a Council member, language was added to indicate that analysis of such data has to be done “without resorting to profiling based on stereotypes founded on grounds of discrimination prohibited by international law”.

Some Council members raised concerns regarding the emphasis on law enforcement-related issues in the draft and proposed including language on the preventive aspect in stemming the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, including through the countering of violent extremism. The draft presidential statement includes new language regarding terrorist recruitment efforts, which appear to be increasingly targeting women and youth, and stresses the need for member states to more effectively identify and work with relevant local communities and civil society leaders to develop programmes at schools and in prisons and develop robust social media campaigns and counter-messaging efforts to blunt terrorist narratives and online recruitment attempts. In the negotiation process, some Council members supported the inclusion of language from resolution 2178 regarding the need to address underlying factors, including promoting political and religious tolerance, economic development and social cohesion and inclusiveness, ending and resolving armed conflicts, and facilitating reintegration and rehabilitation.

The draft presidential statement also contains a Council request for the Monitoring Team and the CTED to prepare an impact assessment of member states’ implementation-related actions for resolution 2178, to be presented to the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee and the CTC in preparation for a Council meeting at the one-year anniversary of the adoption of resolution 2178. The draft also strongly recommends that the Counterterrorism Implementation Task Force should work with Council-mandated bodies like the CTED in developing and delivering a UN capacity building implementation plan for countering the flow of foreign terrorist fighters.

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