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UN Delivers Workshop on Prison Classification under Joint Global Programme to Prevent Violent Extremism in Prisons

Kampala, 12 September 2019 -  seizing on the momentum from the launch of a four-year initiative in Uganda to counter violent extremism in prisons, the UN and Uganda organized a first training activity focused on prisoner classification. Developing risk assessments to determine prisoners’ susceptibility to terrorist recruitment and radicalization to violence has been identified as a key element in addressing violent extremism in prisons.

The workshop brought together international specialists and practitioners and leaders within the Uganda Prison Service to raise awareness regarding approaches to prisoner classification and risk assessment in different jurisdictions and to jointly identify options for implementing good practices in the Ugandan context.

At the workshop, Uganda prison officials welcomed the opportunity to learn from the experiences of other prison systems, since addressing violent extremism in prisons is a complex challenge for prison services globally.

This activity was the first under the joint global programme on “Supporting the management of violent extremist prisoners and the prevention of radicalization to violence in prisons” led by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNCCT) in close coordination with the United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (UNCTED). The programme is co-funded by the European Union, the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) and the Government of the Netherlands

The joint programme is being delivered in Kazakhstan, Tunisia and Uganda, and aims to strengthen the capacity of prison services to effectively manage violent extremist prisoners and to respond to the challenge of potential radicalization to violence in prison. The programme will address these issues as part of broader prison reform efforts and in full compliance with international human rights standards, including the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) and from a gender perspective.

At the launch event, the Minister of State for Internal Affairs of Uganda, Hon. Obiga Kania, commended the implementing partners for selecting Uganda as a beneficiary, stating that “Violent extremism has grown in Uganda over the recent years, and continues to pose a threat to the Government’s efforts to promote peace and security. It is also undermining the progress made towards fostering sustainable development, protection of human rights and promotion of the rule of law.”

At the opening of the workshop, the Ambassador of the Netherlands to Uganda, Mr. Henk Jan Bakker welcomed the initiative, noting that “every terrorist or violent extremist less in Uganda, is not only good for Uganda, but also for the region and at the end of the day for the rest of the world. Moreover, preventing violent extremism is cheaper than suppressing conflicts that have erupted into open violence, and intensified security threats”.

The Commissioner General of Prisons of Uganda, Dr. Johnson O.R. Byabashaija emphasized that “given the growing threat of radicalization to violence in prisons, and the fact that prisons can serve as incubators for radicalization to violence and recruitment, the attention for this subject in Uganda is very timely”.

This workshop was just the first step in the UN’s support to Uganda, however, with further technical assistance activities planned for later this year which will support Uganda to implement key aspects of its National Strategy to prevent and counter violent extremism in Uganda which is currently being finalized.