Ethical Decision-Making in Counter-Terrorism Investigations

From 31 May to 3 June 2022, the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) Global Fusion Cells Programme, in coordination with the Mozambican Judiciary and Legal Training Center (CFJJ), delivered a four-day in-person training course in Maputo, Mozambique on “Ethical Decision-Making in Counter-Terrorism Investigations”.

The course aims at developing the participants’ knowledge and understanding of ethical decision-making in the context of counter-terrorism or law enforcement investigations. It also contributes to improve their decision-making and problem-solving skills, in both emergency and day-to-day situations. 

The Global Fusion Cells Programme provides a  comprehensive building-block approach, which includes developing a larger set of foundational skills in accordance with international standards, to ensure that the fusion centres and counter-terrorism staff work efficiently.

The training in Maputo was delivered in Portuguese with the support of two experts from the National Counter-Terrorism Unit of the Judicial Police, designated by the Portuguese Government. The thirty participants from Mozambican authorities, included representatives from the Judicial System (Public Prosecutors and Judges), Attorney General’s Office (PGR), State Information and Security Service (SISE), National Criminal Investigation Service (SERNIC), and Military Intelligence Services. 

Concretely, the training included:

  • Problem-solving vs. decision-making, a seven-step generic model* for decision-making in day-to-day and emergency situations.
  • Analyzing factors affecting decision-making such as working rules, personal and verification bias, availability error, and how an investigative mindset can help investigators overcome these influences.
  • Exploring investigative sources as evidence for crimes, as well as planning and preparing an investigation, examining material, recording and storage of information and evaluation of sources. 
  • Different types of evaluation, including investigative and evidential evaluation; material filters including relevance, reliability, corroboration, admissibility; the concept of the golden hour of an investigation; the 5W1H [what, who, where, when, how and why] questions to ask in an investigation; how to develop and utilize a gap analysis matrix; as well as prioritization in decision-making. 
  • Terrorism case studies demonstrating the concrete application and usefulness of these decision-making concepts and investigative process. 


The three-year Global Fusion Cells Programme was launched in January 2020 to assist Member States in developing national interagency coordination mechanisms such as  national fusion and counter-terrorism centres.

These centres pool and analyze information, enable informed decision-making and help prevent attacks from occurring. They therefore contribute to enhancing preparedness and promoting intelligence-led activity. Fusion centres can also help lead investigations to ensure the best evidence is gathered, increase the likelihood of successful prosecution, and contribute to a more effective response to and recovery from a terrorist attack.  

The current beneficiaries of the programme include Ghana, Botswana, Uganda, Togo, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the regional body SADC. 

The programme is co-funded by the United Nations Peace and Development Trust Fund (UNPDF) and the governments of Portugal and Qatar. UNOCT Special Projects Section implements the programme in cooperation with CTED, UNPOL, CAERT, and Interpol. 


*The generic model includes 7 steps for decision-making in day-to-day and emergency situations: 

1. State the problem and clarify goals
2. Gather all available information and intelligence
3. Determine and check the facts
4. Consider legal, ethical and policy issues
5. Develop an agreed-upon working strategy or action plan, upon evaluating its consequences
6. Make the decision
7. Review

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