South Africa, 4-9 March 2019 - 50 prosecutors and law enforcement officials in Cape Town and 27 law enforcement officials in Johannesburg attended training workshops from 4 to 6 March and 7 to 9 March respectively.
The training workshops were organized as part of an initiative to strengthen rule of law-based criminal justice responses for preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism. They were specifically focused on the investigation of terrorism offences, including the prevention of terrorist activity and foreign terrorist fighters. The workshops were conducted in partnership with the African Centre for the Study and Research of Terrorism and the Secretariat of the Southern African Development Community.
South Africa has been fortunate not to have experienced any major terrorist incident in recent times. However, the country faces possible threats posed by returning foreign fighters from Syria and its potential to be used as a haven or an operational base for the planning of terrorist attacks elsewhere. More so, individuals with South African travel documents have been linked to terror offences that have had ramifications within and outside of the African continent.
To ensure preparedness to prevent terrorist activities, terrorism, law enforcement officials and prosecutors should have the requisite skills for the detection and interception of attacks. Similarly, to promote terrorist convictions, law enforcement officials and prosecutors should be adequately trained to investigate offences and provide sufficient evidence to support their cases.
For this reason, participants in both workshops were introduced to key themes in the investigation of terrorism cases, including investigative strategies, crime scene management, intelligence and evidence in terrorism cases, forensics in terrorism investigations, mobile phone evidence and interviewing suspects and witnesses of terrorism.
Participants were also taken through a detailed practical counter terrorism exercise involving returning foreign terrorist fighters. Participants were given some information on a suspect, the suspect's activities, accomplices, and his/her intentions in order to help piece together evidence that would bring about a possible conviction. For this, participants were divided into five groups and requested to work in their capacity as investigators. Participants from respective groups were asked to provide feedback on the steps they took to find out the identity of the suspect and other information, to the rest of their colleagues.
At the end of both events, participants emphasized the need for their colleagues in respective agencies and institutions across the country to be better prepared to investigate terrorism and to manage the aftermath of a terrorist attack. Participants expressed an interest in keeping in contact with one another to be able to better collaborate, as the need arises.