The Multi-Agency Task Force (MATF) of the MENA region is a cooperation network that aims to strengthen cooperation between law enforcement and criminal justice focal points to address foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) including returnees and relocators. Under the project, launched in Casablanca in November 2017 and funded by the Counter-Terrorism Capacity Building Program of the government of Canada, the fourth regional workshop of the MATF was organized by UNODC's Terrorism Prevention Branch in Tunis on 27-30 November 2018.
During the workshop the focal points of the MATF developed, with UNODC's support, a practical guide dedicated to the preparation and transmission of effective cooperation requests including those related to mutual legal assistance (MLA) and extradition. For each MATF country, the guide will include, but is not limited to, a directory of focal points and competent national authorities; guidance on various aspects of MLA and extradition requests; channels of transmission for the requests; insight into the applicable national legal instruments; and requirements for each country to make successful requests. The practical guide will be made available in the first quarter of 2019.
In addition to the Guide's development, the project aims to create an online programme to maintain contact between the MATF focal points, strengthen its network, build trust between counterparts and provide further relevant training. The geographical scope of the project covers an extensive number of countries including Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia.
Within the Task Force, focal points work together to analyse operational challenges within FTF related cases as well as share good practices. Their main role is to facilitate cooperation with their counterparts in the areas of joint investigations, MLA and extradition requests, in particular through direct, informal and regular contacts.
In addition, the focal points reviewed the draft Rules of Procedure that were developed to outline the composition of the network as well as define the roles of the focal points within the Task Force. Endorsement of the Rules of Procedure is foreseen in 2019 to officially institutionalize the MATF.
Furthermore, the meeting offered focal points the opportunity to continue their discussion of ongoing terrorism cases in order to develop practical solutions to address them.
The participants praised the work of UNODC in developing the initiative and thanked the Tunisian authorities for hosting the event. The focal points unanimously called for further support and guidance from UNODC to ensure continuity of the Task Force in order to lead it to a fully operational stage. The participants subsequently issued recommendations calling for the development of the second phase of the project.