UNODC assists Sahel States to counter foreign terrorist fighters

This activity was funded by Japan

More than a hundred of the world's states figure among the countries of origin, destination or transit for foreign terrorist fighters. Among the different terrorist groups, notably the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, no less than 25,000 foreign fighters have been recruited. Such an intense flow of fighters constitutes a threat in the short and medium term for the whole of the international community. Following instability in Libya, a recent report by the United Nations has identified the Sahel as one of the regions facing a real threat from this expanding phenomenon. 

In order to overhaul the legal and operational frameworks with regard to the fight against foreign terrorist fighters, UNODC organized a conference in Dakar, Senegal, between 29 September and 1 October 2015. The workshop, made possible thanks to financial support from the Japanese government, brought together representatives from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal, in addition to many experts from regional, national and international organization. Interpol, the African Centre for Study and Research on Terrorism, the Sahel G5 and European police forces specialized in counter-terrorism were therefore able to exchange best practices and experiences over the course of the workshop.

As each delegation was made up of staff from the Ministries of Justice and Interior, the national police force, the gendarmerie and the National Guard, as well as magistrates, the campaign against foreign terrorist fighters is being undertaken in a multidisciplinary fashion - the only approach which offers a coherent, global and participative response to such a pressing issue.

Participants during the conference in Dakar, Senegal

Indeed, given the transnational nature of the foreign terrorist fighter phenomenon, such an approach is vital in order to envisage effective means of counteracting. Both Adequate judicial procedures in conjunction with a heightened awareness of this problem are necessary in order to devise an effective and coherent response at the sub regional level.

The meeting allowed for the identification of gaps in the current national legal systems of participating states in respect of international conventions on the fight against terrorism, and more particularly with regard to the UN Security Council Resolution 2178 (2014) dealing with the criminalization of foreign terrorist fighters. The grounds covered by this analysis were as follows: recruitment and incitement to terrorism (pursuant to UN Security Council Resolutions 1373 and 1624), the financing of terrorism, training, the criminalization of preparatory acts and cases where individuals act alone or in small groups.

Abdullah Anas presenting during the seminar

By the end of the conference, the participants had identified axes for continued practical efforts. UNODC, among others, was called upon to support more directly the development of platforms for judicial cooperation, security and the exchange of information between the Sahel countries. By directly applying the provisions listed in Security Council Resolution 2178, UNODC aims henceforth to elaborate concrete assistance programmes to the benefit of Sahel states, particularly on legal matters. A series of workshops will be led in partnership with the relevant actors in the anti-terrorism campaign in order to put in place more effective operational frameworks, particularly through the sharing of good practices and policies for reinforced regional and international cooperation.

Since 2003, UNODC provides technical assistance to West and Central African countries in their fight against terrorism, specifically on criminal matters. These efforts have intensified since 2013, and are now part of the organization's contribution the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (2013-2017). As such, they aim to support the development of accessible, effective and accountable criminal justice systems in the states of the region, while also strengthening their detection and border control capacities in line with international conventions and protocols, as well as human rights principles and rule-of-law based standards.

For more information:

UNODC and Terrorism Prevention in West and Central Africa

UNODC Training Module on Human Rights and Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism

UNODC Contribution to the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel

United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel