UNODC Supports Morocco To Address Returning Foreign Terrorist Fighters

Over the past years, Morocco has made significant headway in aligning its criminal justice response to terrorism with the rule of law and international human rights standards. Nevertheless, the terrorist threat in the country remains prevalent.

While the phenomenon of FTFs is not a new one, the number of Moroccan nationals among FTFs remains high. At the same time, jihadist ideology is becoming increasingly more appealing to vulnerable communities within the country, including youth and women.

The acute security risk that these returning FTFs pose to the country, and the region as a whole, has been well documented. Another concern is that young and female returnees may have acquired training in warfare or learned how to handle explosive devices, as well as having been subjected to jihadist indoctrination. However, at the same time, they could also act as key players in criminal proceedings in countering narratives and propaganda conducive to violent extremism. This underscores the complex ways in which youth and women are involved in and affected by terrorist activity, both as victims and as perpetrators.

To respond to these security challenges at the request of Morocco, UNODC developed a new comprehensive capacity-building initiative in close coordination with local authorities. The initiative strengthens the expertise of Moroccan stakeholders in developing effective and human rights compliant investigation and trial management standards for returning FFs, including youngsters, women and family members involved in terrorist activities.

The initiative was formally launched through two UK-funded activities. The first consultative meeting, which was held on 27 May 2021 with Moroccan stakeholders, defined the project’s objectives and established its steering committee which is comprised of criminal justice actors and policymakers who will be focal points in implementing its activities. The second event will be held in June 2021 and will focus on delivering practice-oriented training regarding the legislative and procedural challenges, as well as best practices, in the management of investigations and prosecutions of returning FTFs and their family members.