Foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) continue to pose a major threat to international peace and security. As stated by the UN Secretary-General Guterres in his 11th report on the threat posed by ISIL/Da’esh, the FTF phenomenon is likely to become even more threatening “as States release growing numbers of returnees in the coming months and years” (S/2020/774).
This trend may be accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which adds pressure on governments to address overcrowding in prisons with high infection rates which could potentially result in the premature release of dangerous inmates. Further compounding this situation, national authorities in North Africa and the Sahel often struggle to ensure adequate detection capacity on porous borders, allowing FTFs and transnational organized crime groups to move with impunity.
To address these transnational challenges, UNODC’s Terrorism Prevention Branch (UNODC/TPB) delivered a specialized online workshop for Tunisia on the normative and technical capacity required for the use of passenger data to prevent and combat terrorism in accordance with international obligations and standards. The workshop, which took place on 15-17 December 2020, was delivered as part of UNODC/TPB’s international efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism leading terrorism.
The activity built upon two specialized online workshops delivered for Morocco and Algeria on 12-15 October 2020 and 20-22 October 2020, respectively. It was conducted online in Arabic and French via UNODC’s Counter-Terrorism Learning Platform (CTLP).
The workshop brought together 21 law enforcement officers from investigation agencies and other related entities, to enhance the use of advance passenger information (API) and passenger name record (PNR) data systems. The event also sought to strengthen participants’ understanding and use of watchlists and databases as well as identify terrorists and other serious criminals with full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Sessions covered the international obligations, legal requirements, regulatory and operational frameworks related to the establishment, use and operationalization of passenger data and API/PNR systems. Information was also provided on the UN Countering Terrorist Travel Programme, as well as on the use and protection of intelligence in rule of law and evidence-based investigations. In addition, participants collaborated on legal case studies and practical exercises to apply knowledge and information acquired during the workshop.
Participants were able to identify the gaps, as well as legal and technical needs for the implementation of international obligations and standards. Training sessions helped to reinforce participants’ knowledge of how API/PNR can be used to prevent terrorism, and identify avenues to strengthen cooperation between law enforcement agencies and related entities in collecting and sharing passenger data and intelligence (among other types of data).
The workshop was one of UNODC/TPB’s several initiatives aimed at strengthening capacity and cross-border cooperation against terrorism and FTFs. It was conducted under the framework of the UNODC/TPB project on supporting implementation of UN Security Council resolution 2396 (2017)-related investigation capacities and cooperation against transnational and cross-border terrorism in Central Asia, South Asia, and North Africa, funded by the United States of America.