UN event highlights successes, challenges in bringing terrorists to justice

Executive Director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee, Mike Smith

1 December 2010 – The United Nations brought together senior counter-terrorism prosecutors and experts from around the world to New York today to discuss successes by countries in critical areas such as prevention of terrorism and prosecution of terrorism cases, as well as the challenges encountered by different legal systems in bringing perpetrators to justice.

“This seminar is an opportunity for practitioners working on different aspects of the problem to share their views and experience,” said Mike Smith, Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED).

The CTED was created to support the Security Council in monitoring how countries implement resolution 1373, which was adopted in the wake of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

The resolution requires all Member States to bring terrorists to justice. However, the country visits and other activities of the Committee have shown that this requirement poses a major challenge for criminal justice systems.

Mr. Smith told a news conference that prosecuting terrorist offences raises particular challenges, especially since very often terrorist attacks happen over several countries.

“They might be planned in one country, the people recruited in another, the materials for it found in a third, and then the attack carried out in a fourth,” he said, adding that international cooperation in such circumstances is critical.

In addition to getting the prosecutors to communicate with each other and share their experiences, the seminar hopes to pull together best practices that can be disseminated more widely as part of CTED’s efforts to promote good counter-terrorism practice all over the world, Mr. Smith noted.

It also hopes to demonstrate that it is possible, despite the complexity of terrorism cases, to bring terrorists to justice while also respecting the rule of law and human rights, he said.

Welcoming participants to the three-day seminar, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said the event highlights the vital importance of cooperation in addressing terrorism in all its aspects.

“You here today are central to fulfilling international obligations at the national level. Your day-to-day work as prosecutors and experts places you on the frontlines of denying safe haven, strengthening border controls, pursuing leads, all in the name of bringing terrorists to justice and helping victims and survivors.

“Sharing information among countries is critical if we are to successfully coordinate our multifaceted response to terrorism,” she said, delivering Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the meeting.

Ms. Migiro added that the event also highlights the UN’s leading role in coordinating the international response to terrorism, including through the series of resolutions adopted by the Council with the aim of preventing and suppressing this “persistent and evolving threat.”

In addition, the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, adopted by the General Assembly in 2006, reaffirms the collective condemnation by Member States of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations by whomever, wherever and for whatever purposes, she noted.


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