UNODC releases handbook with case studies of terrorist cases

Image: UNODC18 May 2010 - Terrorism continues to represent one of the greatest global challenges to international peace, stability and security. To counter this threat, States must join efforts at the local, national, bilateral, regional, subregional and international levels to deal with its various manifestations. In addition, Member States must build up an institutional structure that includes prevention, investigation, law enforcement and adequate sanctions for terrorists.

The Digest of Terrorist Cases, recently released by UNODC, is an example of such international cooperation. The handbook is a compilation of legal experiences relating to actual terrorist cases gained by high-ranking experts from several countries who have gathered at meetings organized by UNODC in Austria, Colombia and Italy. The experts share their experiences in dealing with terrorism cases, reflect on their positive and negative judicial experiences, and explain specific investigative and prosecutorial techniques used in these cases.

The compilation therefore gives policymakers and criminal justice officials from all over the world practical ideas on and expert insight into ways of dealing with a relatively new field of jurisprudence. It compares national legal structures for the prosecution of terrorism, and identifies legal issues and pitfalls encountered in investigating and adjudicating relevant offences. In addition, it identifies practices related to specialized investigative and prosecutorial techniques.

"This first digest analyses terrorist cases. Jurisprudence is still developing in this field, and it is useful for practitioners to compare experiences. A similar digest of organized crime cases would also be useful", said UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa when launching the publication at the recently concluded Crime Congress in Brazil.

The Digest of Terrorist Cases offers a general strategy of "good practices" for investigative and judicial techniques and a unique and precious tool for professionals and experts working to prevent and fight terrorism.

The handbook is organized around seven thematic chapters, each referring to several legal cases. The themes covered are: offences for terrorist acts already committed; offences to prevent terrorist acts; the relationship between terrorism and other forms of crime; the statutory framework for terrorism prosecutions; investigation and adjudication issues; international cooperation; and innovation and proposals.

This handbook, translated into the six official languages of the United Nations, complements other technical assistance tools developed in the field of preventing and countering terrorism, which are available here. The tool was developed with the support of the Governments of Colombia, Germany and Italy.

UNODC provides States with legal and related technical assistance to help them prevent terrorism. Specifically, UNODC helps States to achieve full ratification of the 16 universal legal instruments against terrorism and to develop and apply domestic legislation for their implementation. It provides capacity-building assistance to strengthen criminal justice systems; facilitates international cooperation in criminal matters pertaining to terrorism; and strengthens collaboration on legal aspects of counter-terrorism with relevant regional and international organizations.

In 2009, UNODC provided 64 countries with legal assistance, supplied specialized legal training to approximately 1,500 criminal justice officials and reached 140 countries through national or regional counter-terrorism activities.

This year, UNODC is enhancing its focus on knowledge-building in specialized areas such as nuclear, chemical and biological terrorism, victims of terrorism, financing of terrorism, maritime issues and the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes. The organization is also developing long-term, customized assistance for criminal justice practitioners involved in the investigation, prosecution and adjudication of terrorism cases and a range of crimes potentially linked to terrorism.

Related Information

Digest of Terrorist Cases

UNODC and terrorism prevention