Insights into Editorial: Security Council Resolution 2322 – Will it Strengthen Multilateral cooperation in Counter-terrorism?
Seeking to strengthen the international response to terrorism, UN Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution aimed at enhancing and fortifying judicial cooperation worldwide. By resolution 2322, the 15-nation body underlined the importance of strengthening international cooperation, including by investigators, prosecutors and judges, in order to prevent, investigate and prosecute terrorist acts, and expressed concern at the use by terrorists of information and communications technologies.
- Resolution 2322 aims to enhance the efficacy of international legal and judicial systems in their fight against terrorism through operational collaboration. This is the first resolution adopted by the Security Council on the subject matter of international judicial cooperation, in order to overcome the challenges posed by existing extra-territorial terrorist networks.
The Resolution emphasises five major issues related to counter terrorist activities:
- Mutual legal assistance and extradition.
- The issue of foreign terrorist fighters and returnees.
- Financing of terrorism.
- Increasing role of information technology in gathering and sharing evidence.
- Role of multilateral agencies such as UNDOC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) and INTERPOL in preventing terrorist activities.
Highlights of the resolution:
- The resolution calls upon States to use applicable international instruments as a basis for mutual legal assistance and extradition in terrorism cases and to review and update existing laws in view of the substantial increase in volume of requests for digital data.
- It emphasises the necessity of revising and simplifying bilateral and multilateral treaties of extradition and suggests the need for mutual legal assistance in matters related to counter-terrorism so as to enhance their effectiveness.
- The issue of foreign fighters and returnees, one of the principal challenges related to contemporary terrorism, particularly in the context of ISIL/Da’esh fighters in Syria/Iraq, comprises the next major focal area of the resolution.
- The resolution underlines the importance of international cooperation in stemming the flow of foreign terrorist fighters to and their return from conflict zones. It urges States to share available information regarding foreign terrorist fighters including their biometric and biographic information and emphasises the importance of providing such information to multilateral screening databases.
- The Resolution also calls for the easing of transfer of criminal proceedings from the court of one country to those countries where the main act of terrorism took place, or where most of the evidence is concentrated. It also adds that appropriate sharing and use of intelligence threat data on foreign fighters are central to counter-terrorism measures.
- As a means to curb financial assistance to terrorist networks and groups, the resolution suggests that States make financing of terrorism as a serious criminal offense in domestic law, and also enhance international cooperation to deny safe haven to terror financiers.
- It also urges States to extradite or prosecute individuals who support financing of terrorist groups directly or indirectly, and to undertake targeted financial sanctions against such groups.
- Other major proposals of the resolution include promotion of the use of electronic communication including the internet and broadening the scope of digital data in terrorism cases, and closer cooperation with UNDOC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and INTERPOL (International Criminal Police Organization).
Significance of this resolution:
- Some of the proposals such as designation of national central authorities for mutual legal assistance and extradition, regional and cross-regional cooperation, appointment of liaison officers, police to police cooperation, creation of joint investigation and information sharing mechanisms are extremely significant in the present scenario.
- The resolution also emphasises the need for assisting victims of terrorism, and cautions against deprecating fundamental human rights in the name of counter-terrorism. In this regard, the resolution asks States to ensure that their counter-terrorism laws are compliant with international human rights and humanitarian laws.
- Resolution 2322 also debates one of the most significant practical challenges of countering transnational terrorism, the lack of judicial cooperation. This was one of the fundamental problems in prosecuting most terrorism cases in the past, especially in cases where foreign terrorist fighters/groups were involved.
- The proposed judicial cooperation in the resolution would help in mobilizing tangible evidence to ensure that those evidence were gathered in a form which could be used in courts.
- A systematic use of international databases, for instance, INTERPOL database on wanted persons, as proposed in the resolution, would also be helpful in preventing terrorists from entering/travel from the territory of one State to another. This is significant in the light of the imminent threat posed by the return of foreign terrorist fighters from Syria and Iraq.
Counter-terrorism efforts of the international community has been in a stalemate for the past few years due to the following reasons:
- Lack of a standard definition of the term ‘terrorism,’ and the consequent questions such as ‘what constitute an act of terrorism’ and ‘who is a terrorist’ were the main reasons behind this stalemate.
- With different perceptions of crime, on the one hand, and diverse interests, on the other, states also often stand as a barrier to effective and coordinated counter-terrorism measures.
- Cooperation among judges is vital to counter-terrorism efforts. But, lack of judicial cooperation has been one of the fundamental problems in prosecuting transnational terrorists.
- Also, the lack of cooperation amongst police forces and absence of international databases regarding terrorist groups and their members have hampered terrorism cases significantly.
The resolution, if implemented in letter and spirit, would help in getting evidence regarding their actions in Syria and Iraq rather than allegations which could not be proved in a court of law. Moreover, active legal cooperation at the international level, as envisaged by resolution 2322 would open ways to end the stalemate in extradition of wanted terrorists, and would put an end to the practice of providing safe havens to such persons by other States.
The Security Council resolution on international judicial cooperation is a significant development in countering the scourge of terrorism, particularly by transnational terrorist groups. It can be viewed as the first step to overcome the practical challenges associated with the prosecution of terrorists in their country of origin or elsewhere, for their criminal activities in a foreign country. However, to make it work, it is necessary to cover the gap between adoption and implementation of the resolution, by both the UN and its member States.