UNODC's Terrorism Prevention Branch (UNODC/TPB) organized the third regional coordination workshop of the Multi-Agency Task Force (MATF) in the Middle-East and North Africa region, which took place in Beirut on 24-28 September 2018.
The project, launched in Casablanca in November 2017 and funded by the Counter-Terrorism Capacity Building Program (CTCBP) of the government of Canada, aims at strengthening law enforcement and judicial cooperation against foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) for the MENA region. The geographical scope of the project covers an extensive number of countries including Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. Furthermore, the project aims to develop useful and relevant tools such as a practical guide to prepare effective cooperation requests in terrorist cases and an online programme to maintain contact between the MATF focal points, strengthen its network, build trust between counterparts and provide further relevant training.
The MATF is a cooperation network composed of law enforcement and criminal justice focal points and was established specifically to address the urgent need of strengthening cooperation when dealing with FTF cases, including returnees and relocators.
Within the network, counterparts collaborate to analyse the operational challenges posed in different FTF cases and discuss the good practices that could be utilized in order to respond to them effectively. Overall, their roles are to facilitate cooperation, including for joint investigation requests, international mutual legal assistance and extradition requests, in particular through direct, informal and regular contacts.
In addition to the Task Force's focal points, the meeting brought together regional and international experts from Burkina Faso, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the Security Council Committee Pursuant to Resolutions 1267 (1999) 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) Concerning ISIL (Da'esh), Al-Qaida and Associated Individuals Groups Undertakings and Entities, EUROPOL, and the West African Central Authorities and Prosecutors against Organized Crime.
During the meeting, an overview of the recent developments and contributions concerning the international legal framework against terrorism was presented. Furthermore, an assessment of the evolving threat posed by FTFs in the MENA region was shared, as well as the latest Security Council resolutions on FTFs. In addition, the Task Force's focal points presented examples of ongoing terrorist cases and highlighted common legal and operational difficulties within regional cooperation, in order to discuss possible solutions to address them. Participants were also exposed to existing networks of focal points to better acclimate to the technical challenges of setting up similar platforms.
Furthermore, thematic sessions addressed topics such as sharing of confidential information collected by intelligence services or armed forces in conflict zones, as well as strategies to prevent terrorists from benefitting from links with transnational organized crime, and the recruitment and exploitation of children by terrorist and violent extremist groups.
Within the framework of the working group sessions, the focal points developed the draft of the MATF Rules of Procedure to outline the composition of the network, in view of its institutionalisation in 2019.
While the participants praised UNODC for the development of the initiative and for guiding the MATF to its operational stage, they were also called on for further support. Participants warmly thanked the Lebanese authorities for hosting the event