ROME, 10 May 2018 – Enhanced information-sharing and border security and human rights-compliant rehabilitation and reintegration programmes are among the key measures states need to take in order to address the challenge of returning foreign terrorist fighters, said speakers at the opening of the 2018 OSCE-wide Counter-Terrorism Conference in Rome.
More than 350 high-level participants including government experts and representatives of international and sub-regional organizations, academia and civil society from across the OSCE participating States and Partners for Co-operation gathered for the two-day conference organized by the Italian OSCE Chairmanship with the support of the OSCE Transnational Threats Department, in close co-operation with other OSCE executive structures.
Countering terrorism is a top priority for Italy, said Vinicio Mati, Italian OSCE Chairmanship Co-ordinator in his opening remarks.
“In addressing the challenge of returning foreign terrorist fighters, we have to focus on co-operation and information sharing between states, because foreign terrorist fighters present a transnational threat,” Mati said.
He added: “It is crucial to focus on strategies for addressing violent extremism and radicalization that lead to terrorism that need to be supported from a social and cultural angle by the competent authorities. We also deem it important to follow carefully what happens within places of detention, where radicalization processes can be accelerated.
Mati also touched on the issues of returning families of foreign terrorist fighters, especially children, and of fully respecting the rule of law in countering terrorism and in prosecuting terrorists.
The Conference was organized amid growing concern that returning or relocating foreign terrorist fighters may engage in violent acts at home, incite others to terrorist acts, take part in terrorist recruitment efforts and fundraise for terrorist organizations.
Paul Bekkers, Director of the Office of the OSCE Secretary General, said that there are two major challenges in addressing the threat posed by returning foreign terrorist fighters: identifying these individuals before they cross borders, and knowing how to deal with them upon their return.
“To better detect returning foreign terrorist fighters we need to improve border screening, check passenger data, collect biometrics, and share information. Managing rehabilitation and reintegration requires both a criminal justice response and a whole of society approach, especially when dealing with family members,” he said. “The OSCE is committed to supporting participating States to strengthen their capacities in detecting returning foreign terrorist fighters, and in managing their rehabilitation and reintegration,” Bekkers said.
National, regional and international perspectives on the challenge were provided by the Conference’s keynote speakers: Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov, Albania’s Deputy Interior Minister Romina Kuko, Belarus’ Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Kravchenko, National Prosecutor on Anti-Mafia and Anti-Terrorism Issues at Italy’s Ministry of Justice Federico Cafiero de Raho, Director of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism Jehangir Khan, Head of the Counter-Terrorism Division at the European External Action Service John Gatt-Rutter and Acting Deputy Co-ordinator of Counter-terrorism at the United States Department of State Raffi Gregorian.
Over the course of the conference, participants will share their experiences on national and international co-operation, strengthening border security and information sharing, and rehabilitation and reintegration programmes within and outside the criminal justice system. Participants will also discuss how to address the challenges related to accompanying family members of foreign terrorist fighters.