15 May 2020 – Independence, ethics and specialized knowledge are all cornerstones of a fair and effective judiciary, especially in the context of terrorism cases. However, many countries face challenges in relation to the adjudication of these cases, thus hindering the effective administration of justice.
In response to these challenges, the United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), with the active support and engagement of judges from all South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries and their implementing partner, the Global Center on Cooperative Security, developed the “South Asia Regional Toolkit for Judges: Supporting the Development of National Bench Books for the Effective Adjudication of Terrorism Cases”.
In response to the dramatic rise in terrorist activities globally, including in South Asia, the toolkit focuses on the region as a whole, providing practice-oriented guidance on the foundations for effective adjudication, judicial management of proceedings and international cooperation in terrorism matters.
Recognizing that terrorism takes different forms and is evolving, and that countries in the South Asia region experience unique challenges, UNODC began delivering two closely-related counter-terrorism projects in the Maldives and Sri Lanka, one funded by the European Union and jointly-implemented with INTERPOL, and another funded by Germany. These complimentary initiatives are partly based on recommendations developed during CTED assessment visits to the countries, which UNODC’s Terrorism Prevention Branch (TPB) participated in, and aim at strengthening a rule-of-law-based approach to counter-terrorism adjudication by enhancing the capacity and specific technical knowledge of judges to adjudicate terrorism cases.
“Striking the right balance between individual freedoms and the country’s security, including on hate speech and stigmatisation of certain communities is always a complex issue” German Ambassador for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Jörn Rohde said. “In times of COVID-19 it also becomes important that the instrumentalization of health policies is avoided. The fight against terrorism should only be led in full respect for human rights and the rule of law. It is for these reasons that Germany supports this UNODC project.”
“The European Union stands in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan authorities in the fight against terrorism. The criminal justice system plays a key role in this fight and we are sure Sri Lanka can benefit from international expertise and global standards”, stated Ambassador Denis Chaibi, Head of Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
On 14 May 2020, in the framework of the two projects, UNODC and CTED organized an online consultative meeting on tailoring the regional toolkit to the national context of Sri Lanka via the UNODC Counter-Terrorism Learning Platform (CTLP). During the meeting, participants and experts discussed adapting the regional toolkit to the country’s specific situation, procedures and legal frameworks, focusing on national counter-terrorism challenges identified by the country’s judiciary. UNODC and CTED facilitated the participation of two United States District Court judges and a Higher Regional Court judge from Germany as experts, allowing the delegations to benefit from their extensive experience and subject-matter expertise.
“The long-standing counter-terrorism support UNODC has provided to South Asian countries allowed us to recognize the judiciary’s need for specialized national tools, specifically designed to address their unique needs” said Masood Karimipour, Chief, UNODC/TPB. “Thanks to the excellent foundation the regional toolkit provides, together with CTED and practitioners themselves, we are able to further customize this tool and others like it to the context and procedures of different countries. It is essential that we as technical assistance providers ensure that justice practitioners, the protectors of the rule of law, can continue to adjudicate terrorism cases fairly and effectively.”