What's In Blue

Posted Wed 5 Aug 2020

Counter-Terrorism: Open Debate on the Linkages between Terrorism and Organised Crime

Tomorrow morning (6 August), the Security Council is scheduled to hold an open debate titled “Addressing the Issue of Linkages between Terrorism and Organised Crime” under the agenda item “Threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts”. The meeting is one of Indonesia’s signature events as Council president in August and will be chaired by Retno L. P. Marsudi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia. Under-Secretary-General Vladimir Voronkov, the head of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), and the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Under-Secretary-General Ghada Waly, will brief. As the measures implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are still in place, the open debate will be held as an open videoconference and statements by non-Council members will be submitted in writing.

The link between terrorism and organised crime has been addressed by the Council before. On 9 July 2019, the Council held an open debate under the Peruvian presidency on the linkages between international terrorism and organised crime. Peru also initiated a resolution on the issue, which was adopted on 19 July 2019 as resolution 2428. It expressed the Council’s “concern that terrorists can benefit from organised crime, whether domestic or transnational, as a source of financing or logistical support” and emphasised “the need to coordinate efforts at the local, national, subregional, regional, and international levels to respond to this challenge”. The resolution also requested a UNOCT-UNODC joint report “on actions taken by Member States and the Global [Counter-Terrorism Coordination] Compact entities to address the issue of linkages between terrorism and organised crime, whether transnational or domestic” within twelve months.

The report (S/2020/754), which was published on 4 August, will be the basis for the briefings provided by Voronkov and Waly. The report covers legislative and policy responses, the collection and sharing of intelligence, interdiction, border security measures, investigation, prosecution, international cooperation, and prison management by states. It also lays out different ways UN entities assist states on the legislative, strategic and policy levels in intelligence collection and -sharing, countering the financing of terrorism and anti-money laundering, border security, interdiction, criminal justice, law enforcement, international cooperation, and prison management. It concludes that “the ability of terrorists to draw on organised crime, whether domestic or transnational […] can exacerbate the threat posed by terrorism to international peace and security”.

During the open debate, member states are expected to share their experiences with the link between terrorism and organised crime and their efforts to counteract this problem. Fifteen Global Compact entities and 50 member states contributed to the report. It describes “potential linkages” between organised crime and terrorism as “many and varied” but points out that some states reported limited capacity and information to establish such linkages in their jurisdiction. States that were able to confirm such links found them mostly with regard to the financing of terrorism. Other linkages were found in areas such as kidnapping for ransom, migrant smuggling, car theft, illicit arms and light weapons trade, illicit extraction of minerals, documentation fraud, and illicit trafficking in cultural property and drugs. States further reported that organised criminal groups supported border crossings by terrorists and that foreign terrorist fighters took part in organised criminal activity. Other states reported a decrease in cooperation between criminal and terrorist organisations.

With resolution 2428, the Council “urges Member States to ensure that all measures taken to counter terrorism comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, international human rights law and international refugee law, and urges states to take into account the potential effects of counterterrorism measures on exclusively humanitarian activities”. The report points out that few of the states contributing information to the report included measures taken to protect humanitarian activities and human rights while addressing the link between terrorism and organised crime.

The concept note prepared by Indonesia (S/2020/764) emphasises that “the transnational nature and complex interlinkages between terrorism and organised crime underpin the importance of international cooperation and coordinated responses at multiple levels” while acknowledging that “the degree of threat varies by region”. Indonesia, as stated in the concept note, hopes the open debate will provide UN member states and observers with the opportunity to address continuing challenges, including the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic; share good practices and lessons learned; and identify areas where additional action is necessary, including with the assistance by UN entities. The concept note suggests further issues to be addressed during the meeting such as how the Council itself can support states, steps being taken to learn more about how terrorism and organised crime are linked in different regions, emerging trends that have to be watched, and how states can cooperate amongst themselves and with regional and international organisations.

In line with its priorities, Indonesia has also initiated negotiations with Council members on a draft resolution on the prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of foreign terrorist fighters that might be adopted later this month.