Strengthening the capacity to respect human rights in counter-terrorism efforts in the Sahel

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), delivered the final workshop of the train-the-trainers course on human rights in the criminal justice response to terrorism in Dakar on 1-5 October 2018. Twenty judges and prosecutors, law enforcement officers and national human rights commission officials from six countries of the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin region (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) completed this unique training programme funded by the government of Canada. They are now better equipped to organize, in their own countries' institutions, training activities on the human rights dimensions of the investigation and trial of terrorism cases.

A judge from Niger's specialized terrorism judicial unit, highlighted the importance of having been trained both on human rights and on adult training methodology, having noted that "being a law enforcement professional means knowing how to carry out your tasks with all the necessary skills. Being a competent criminal justice professional means doing so in accordance with the rule of law and human rights. However, being a good trainer requires, in addition to these two qualities, the mastery of the rules of adult training. The training course we followed has provided us with the knowledge of respect for human rights in criminal proceedings to combat terrorism and relevant adult training techniques."

In thanking the organizers, he stated that the training "would be replicated by us in our countries and will change the course of criminal proceedings to fight terrorism in terms of quality and effectiveness."

Similarly, a judicial police officer from Cameroon stated that "as an investigator, the train-the-trainers programme helped participants to build their capacities on best practices related to the human rights dimensions in the investigation of terrorism cases. The participants now have the responsibility to integrate the knowledge acquired in their daily work and share it with their colleagues at the national level.''

The three workshops, which commenced in February 2018, covered the human rights aspects at all stages of criminal proceedings in terrorism cases, ranging from the phases of investigation, pre-trial and trial.

The train-the-trainers methodology aims for sustainable, long-term impact. However, both training skills and substantive knowledge acquired will be put to practice in the very near future and are already producing tangible results.  

In Chad, one of the newly-trained trainers organized and delivered a session on human rights dimensions in the detection procedures of terrorism suspects for immigration officials at Chad's international airport. The event was particularly successful and effective thanks to the newly acquired skills that were enhanced during the sub-regional train-the-trainers programme.

The participants from Cameroon and Burkina Faso are currently working on national training workshops on human rights and counter-terrorism which they will deliver in December 2018 and January 2019, respectively.