8569th Security Council Meeting: Threats to International Peace and Security - Part 2

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09-Jul-2019 02:54:39
Cutting off access to funds, bolstering criminal justice responses key to severing terrorism-organized crime link, experts tell Security Council at 8569th meeting.

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Combating terrorism and organized crime hinges on unravelling and severing the ties between these twin threats while addressing their root causes, delegates told the Security Council today.

More than 60 speakers shared concerns and proposed ways to build or strengthen counter-terrorism efforts at national, regional and global levels during a day-long debate. Many voiced support for a related draft resolution, proposed by Peru, whose country holds the Council presidency in July, which aims at driving effective, collective action.

Describing the current landscape and challenges ahead, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said criminals and terrorists share a need to operate in the shadows, exploiting gaps in criminal justice responses in and between countries and regions. They also employ each other’s tactics and trafficking practices, he said, pointing at Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) as an example of a terrorist group profiting from kidnapping for ransom, illegal oil sales and trafficking in cultural property. To hobble such illicit activities, treaties that enjoy near-universal acceptance should be better used to promote coherence between domestic anti-crime and counter-terrorism legislation with relevant regional and international instruments. More resources must also be channelled into technical assistance to strengthen specialized expertise and capacities, he said, adding that UNODC’s global “Networking the Networks” initiative is enhancing the efforts of law enforcement bodies to cooperate at local, regional and global levels.

A representative of the International Consultant of the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute said these twin threats thrive at the local level, with ISIL seeing early on that it could draw funds from smuggling and the sale of illegal goods. Meanwhile, smaller terrorist cells are focused on recruiting criminals in prisons, which have become true “incubators of the link” between terrorists and criminals and a place for exchanging knowledge. Moreover, the less predictable threats from criminals turned terrorists remain a growing concern. Local-level criminality pose a serious and global risk. Even petty crime is no longer just about policing, she stressed, calling on the international community to act, as this heightened connection may hinder the ability to fight terrorism and increase vulnerability to criminal activities.

The Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate said the territorial losses ISIL sustained have contributed to its efforts to access funds through kidnapping, extortion and trafficking of drugs and weapons. The Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate helps countries to tackle this joint threat, working with Governments to study existing links and identifying effective practices, including the creation of joint investigative units and prosecution authorities to handle both organized crime and terrorism. Yet, a significant disconnect persists between the level of concern expressed by policymakers, the implementation of legal frameworks addressing terrorism and transnational organized crime, and the actual level of investigation and prosecution of cases involving both criminal and terrorist groups. To rectify this, the role of financial intelligence units should be strengthened and stakeholders must overcome institutional barriers.

In the ensuing discussion, many delegates called for greater cooperation among States and support to countries struggling with porous borders and weak legal mechanisms. Representatives largely agreed that the terrorism/organized-crime links must be further studied, dismantled and closely examined to identify and address the root causes.

Several delegates said poverty and underdevelopment were among the leading drivers of terrorism. The representative of Equatorial Guinea said nations must focus on inclusive development and growth to, among other things, prevent the radicalization of young people and other vulnerable groups.

Similarly, Sudan’s delegate underlined the importance of development and of establishing a balanced, fair global order to prevent terrorism from taking root. For its part, Sudan has been able to curb both terrorism and transnational organized crime, he said, warning that the links between them now pose even greater danger. In that regard, he called for inexpensive, coordinated approaches — based on international and bilateral support and fully in accordance with international law — to help countries combat the menace.

The representative of the Philippines, describing the well-established links between international terrorism and organized crime in his country, said the Abu Sayyaf Group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Maute Group and Ansar al Khalifa — all of which have declared allegiance to ISIL — fund their operations through criminal activities, mostly drug trafficking, kidnapping, extortion and arms smuggling, while operating under the rubric of freedom struggles, “covering themselves with the mantle of victims of human rights-religious-conscience violations”. Intensive military operations enabled the Government to recapture Marawi in six months — less than the six years it took the West to recapture Raqqa in Syria. At the same time, the autonomy granted to Muslim Mindanao is intended to end the decades-long conflict that Abu Sayyaf and local terrorist groups have used as cover for their operations, he said, adding that the Government is amending the Human Security Act to render it more responsive.

France’s representative said the November 2015 attacks in Paris spotlighted the link between terrorism and petty crime. Elsewhere in the world, particularly where State authority is contested, such links can be stronger, leading to more active cooperation. Emphasizing his country’s full commitment to combat terrorism and organized crime, he said support of subregional and regional organizations such as the G-5 Sahel Force and the European Union is indispensable in the quest for a response to this linkage.

India’s representative, echoing a common message, said criminals and terrorists are increasingly reaching out to each other. In his region, he said, “we have seen the metamorphosis of Dawood Ibrahim’s criminal syndicate into a terrorist network known as D-Company”. Tackling these threats requires collective inter-state efforts alongside support from private and public enterprises involved in facilitating transboundary financing flows, so they do not fall prey to malevolent aims, in the vein of Osama bin Laden’s string of “retail honey shops”.

Delegates shared their approaches to dealing with threats posed by ISIL/Dae’sh, Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and other terrorist groups. China’s representative said his country has carried out initiatives to combat terrorist activities, including through a deradicalization campaign.

The speaker for the European Union said a recently amended law aims at, among other things, increasing transparency about who owns companies and trusts, tackling terrorist financing risks linked to the anonymous use of virtual currencies and pre-paid instruments, and improving cooperation and the exchange of information between anti-money laundering supervisors and the European Central Bank.

Italy’s delegate recalled his country’s “long and bloody” season of domestic terrorism in the 1970s, which also had international connections. Judicial investigations revealed evidence of rare local cooperation between terrorists and criminals, but by the end of the 1980s, domestic terrorists had been defeated and the Italian authorities concentrated their attention on organized crime. The National Anti-Mafia and Antiterrorism Directorate, established in 1991 and comprising 23 senior public prosecutors, is Italy’s coordinating body for anti-mafia investigations, and is essential in addressing the increasingly complex actions of organized criminal groups.

Côte d’Ivoire’s representative said that while the link between terrorism and organized crime is a collective concern, these phenomena often affect countries lacking the human, financial and logistical resources required to fight against such threats. Building the capacity of institutions in these countries should boost efforts to, among other things, collect and share information and to strengthen cooperation in security-related matters.

The Russian Federation’s delegate agreed. While coordination among the United Nations and regional organization is countering the nexus between these phenomena, there is potential among regional organizations to establish mechanisms to continue the fight, he said, adding that the Council should prepare a resolution on the issue.

Kuwait’s representative, underlining the importance of regional and international strategies, highlighted the essential role played by international instruments, including the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. “We can eradicate this phenomenon only if we are resolute and global in our approach,” he declared.

In the same vein, the United Kingdom’s delegate said Governments alone cannot tackle these problems and partnerships with the private sector and civil society must be strengthened. Just as criminals can learn from each other, so can the international community, he said.

The representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), whose organization visited 1 million detainees in 2018, said that while many countries have policies aimed at preventing or eradicating violent extremism, some measures targeting those accused or convicted of terrorism-related offenses can have harmful consequences extending to the wider detained population and society as a whole. Indeed, key safeguards to counter or prevent radicalization include respect for the rule of law and the humane treatment of detainees.

Also speaking were representatives of Peru, Dominican Republic, Belgium, Germany, Poland, South Africa, United States, Indonesia, Mexico, Japan, Canada, Colombia, Guatemala, Estonia, Chile, Norway (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Pakistan, Australia, Spain, Argentina, Morocco, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Liechtenstein, Viet Nam, Egypt, Uruguay, Cuba, Ireland, Maldives, Slovenia, Costa Rica, Algeria, Panama, Iran, Ukraine, Nigeria, Azerbaijan, Ecuador, Trinidad and Tobago, Armenia and the United Arab Emirates.

The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 3:45 p.m.

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