Practitioners and experts from Central Asia and other regions gathered in Bishkek to discuss promising practices on the post-release monitoring and probation of returning foreign terrorist fighters and violent extremist offenders, as well as lessons learned from a recent two-year initiative in Kyrgyzstan.
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, 19 – 20 September 2023 - The threat of terrorism and violent extremism is a global challenge that demands a collective response. As witnessed in recent years, the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters returning to their home countries continues to pose significant risks to the security and stability of societies. While Member States continue to enhance their management of returning foreign terrorist fighters and other violent extremist offenders in detention, this is just one part of a multifaceted process. No less important are the continued monitoring and interventions conducted with this category of offenders upon release, or in cases of non-custodial punishment.
To address this issue, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Ministry of Justice of the Kyrgyz Republic convened a Regional Workshop on ‘Post-release Monitoring and Probation of Returning Foreign Terrorist Fighters and Violent Extremist Offenders in countries of Central Asia’ in Bishkek on 19 – 20 September 2023. More than 60 participants from state counterparts, civil society and academia gathered both in-person and online to discuss the key challenges facing Central Asia, and promising practices around the world.
Reflecting on the complex challenges posed by returning foreign terrorist fighters, Mr. Ayaz Baetov, Minister of Justice, Kyrgyzstan said, “Through coordinated actions, the partnership between the Ministry of Justice of the Kyrgyz Republic, the Bureau of Counterterrorism of the U.S. State Department and UNODC helped minimize the potential threats posed by returning foreign terrorist fighters and violent extremist offenders. By addressing the complex and multifaceted challenges of reintegration, this collaboration played a crucial role in safeguarding communities and promoting long-term stability.”
Noting the multi-sectoral and multi-regional approach needed to address this issue, UNODC Regional Representative for Central Asia, Ms. Ashita Mittal, noted that “balancing security concerns with the need for rehabilitation and social reintegration is a complex task, and it requires a thoughtful and nuanced approach. We must work together to find that balance and ensure that our actions are grounded in the principles of justice and human dignity.”
Participants discussed issues including barriers to reintegration faced by returning foreign terrorist fighters and violent extremist offenders after their release, the use of classification systems to develop monitoring plans. the use of electronic monitoring bracelets, the capacity building needs of relevant law enforcement bodies, and the role that community plays in both monitoring and reintegration efforts.
The workshop was not an isolated event, as it also marked the culmination of a comprehensive UNODC project aiming to address the complex challenges posed by returning foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) and violent extremist offenders (VEOs). The Post-release Monitoring and Probation of Returning Foreign Terrorist Fighters and Violent Extremist Offenders projectis a two-year initiative, implemented with the generous financial support of the Bureau of Counterterrorism, U.S. State Department. The project has provided comprehensive support to the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic in its efforts to monitor and supervise violent extremist and terrorist offenders. It did this by:
UNODC and the Ministry of Justice took the opportunity of the workshop to present the key achievements of the project, including a feasibility study on the use of electronic monitoring in the Kyrgyz Republic, Risk and Needs Assessment Tools for Violent Extremist Offenders, a study on the Barriers to Reintegration for Returnees and Post-release Violent Extremist Offenders, and success stories from community policing piloting.
Noting the project’s achievements, Mr. Brian Beckmann, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission of the U. S. Embassy in the Kyrgyz Republic stated, "I want to thank the government of the Kyrgyz Republic, especially the Ministry of Justice, and UNODC for their leadership on this issue. This project and the Kyrgyz Government's involvement is also particularly timely with the ongoing repatriation of Kyrgyz citizens from camps in Syria."
At the end of the workshop, participants discussed the need to further strengthen regional cooperation to continue learning from each other, both on practical issues in the field but also at the policy level as the successful monitoring of returning foreign terrorist fighters and violent extremist offenders impacts the security of the region at large. Concluding the event, Mr. Almazbek, Deputy Minister of Justice of the Kyrgyz Republic, noted, “The lessons learned and collaborations formed in this workshop will continue to shape the region's response to the challenge of returning foreign terrorist fighters and violent extremist offenders.”
These activities were carried out as part of the Post-release Monitoring and Probation of Returning Foreign Terrorist Fighters and Violent Extremist Offenders project, implemented by UNODC with the generous support of the Bureau of Counterterrorism, U.S. State Department. This project began in October 2021 and ends in September 2023.