Despite progress in regaining territory held by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), its chokehold persists in communities in the Middle East while it seeks new members, from West Africa to Asia, top counter-terrorism officials told the Security Council today.
“At a time of heightened divisions among Member States, we cannot afford to jeopardize the global fight against terrorism,” said Vladimir Voronkov, Under‑Secretary-General for the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, briefing the Council on the Secretary-General’s tenth report on the threat posed by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) (document S/2020/95).
Citing partnerships, activities and persistent threats, he urged the global community to work closely together to prevent the resurgence of ISIL and a rise in splinter groups in regions around the world. As many as 27,000 foreign terrorist fighters who travelled to Iraq and Syria may still be alive, he warned, pointing out that ISIL may still have access to an estimated $300 million and that its tentacles are reaching into Libya, Afghanistan and several sub-Saharan African countries. Meanwhile, the fate of more than 100,000 detainees in north-west Syria, most of them women and children, remains a major challenge, he said, urging the Council and Member States to reaffirm the unity needed to tackle ISIL, save lives and support the victims and survivors of terrorism.
Michèle Coninsx, Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, brought the Council up to date on recent gains, including efforts to work with States to bring ISIL perpetrators to justice. “It is vital that we listen to the voices of those directly affected by ISIL’s atrocities and recognize the essential role played by women in building peaceful and resilient communities, and preventing terrorism and violent extremism,” she stressed.
Addressing the Council via video-teleconference from Istanbul, Mona Freiji, an English teacher and civil society activist, shared her experience in her hometown of Raqqa, Syria. When she returned in 2017, she found many incredulous faces of people who could not believe the Da’esh occupation was over, including incidents in which children were recruited and women were forced “to bear children by Da’esh” and “obey the orders of monsters”.
“What makes me sad today is that the international community has forgotten us,” she said, adding that: “As I speak today, international law is being violated,” including targeted bombings of civilians. The only solution is a ceasefire and disarmament, with attention focused on Europe to continue the dialogue to end the conflict and impunity, she said.
Council members agreed that impunity must end, with South Africa’s delegate saying that defeating ISIL requires a global determination to ensure accountability for the group’s barbaric crimes. In the same vein, the representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines urged all Member States to fully adhere to their obligations under Council resolution 2462 (2019), adding that all countries must ensure that those financing, planning, perpetrating or supporting terrorist acts are brought to justice.
Tunisia’s representative joined other speakers in underlining the importance of addressing the root causes of radicalization, voicing concern about the use of social media to spread terrorist narratives to young people. Noting that many militant fighters have moved from Syria to neighbouring Libya, he said that, as intra-State conflicts often serve as breeding grounds for terrorists, the Council should use all the tools available to resolve such conflicts and combat the trafficking of weapons.
The Russian Federation’s delegate warned that the Secretary‑General’s report must not lose sight of the flow of money and military equipment, pointing out that terrorist groups in the Middle East continue to receive such shipments.
As a State that is experiencing the effects of the spread of ISIL affiliations, Niger’s delegate drew attention to an unprecedented spike in terrorist attacks in the Sahel, from northern Mali to Burkina Faso and his own country. While the joint force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) tasked with combating terrorism is making strides against Boko Haram and other terror groups, its funding remains insufficient. Similarly, the challenge now is forcing the region’s States to allocate more than a quarter of national budgets to counter-terrorism, diverting funds from social services and development efforts.
Viet Nam’s representative underlined a need for greater cooperation to resolve all these issues. The international community must be “innovative in our actions”, he said, expressing support for the United Nations to play a central role in coordinating the global fight against terrorism.
France’s representative said all stakeholders must stop the dissemination of terrorist ideologies, including online. Recalling that his country launched the Christchurch Appeal in that wake of the massive 2019 terror attack in New Zealand, he asked Internet companies and Governments to pledge to ensure that their sites do not become tools to be exploited by terrorists. Echoing a message heard from several other delegates, he cautioned that counter-terrorism must never be used as a pretext for discrimination against religious groups or to violate human rights.
With this in mind, the representative of the United States raised concerns about the situation in Xinjiang, where people remain detained under the guise of counter‑terrorism. Elaborating on this issue, the United Kingdom’s delegate said that, while China may have terrorism concerns, its actions in Xinjiang involving the Uighurs are disproportionate and indiscriminate and only risk exacerbating ethnic tensions.
China’s representative said accusations made by his counterparts from the United Kingdom and the United States were baseless. Beijing has applied law-based counter-terrorism measures to address its internal affairs, he said, urging the United States to heed human rights bodies’ recommendations to close its prison in Guantanamo, Cuba, and pointing out that Washington, D.C., has instigated wars in the Middle East where Muslim populations are still suffering, and triggered humanitarian crises and turbulence in many countries.
Also speaking were representatives of Germany, Estonia, Indonesia, Dominican Republic and Belgium.
The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 12:22 p.m.
VLADIMIR VORONKOV, Under-Secretary-General for the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, presented the Secretary-General’s tenth report on the threat posed by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) (document S/2020/95), providing examples of the Organization’s efforts in support for Member States. While the terrorist group lost its stronghold, it continues to seek a resurgence online and offline, exploiting local grievances to pursue its strategy of entrenchment in conflict situations. In addition, foreign terrorist fighters who travelled to Iraq and Syria are expected to pose an acute threat, with estimates of those currently alive ranging from 20,000 to 27,000.
Meanwhile, the situation of ISIL fighters and family members in detention and displacement facilities in Iraq and Syria has worsened during the reporting period, he said, emphasizing that their fate remains a major challenge to the international community. Other key challenges include the group’s reconstitution in the Middle East, especially Syria and along the Iraq border, and the untenable situation of more than 100,000 detained people in north-east Syria, of which more than 70,000 are women and children currently in the Al Hol camp. Children, including those linked to United Nations-listed terrorist groups, should be treated as victims and any prosecution must meet international standards, he said, commending Member States that have repatriated their nationals who are suspected to have links to listed terrorist groups, and adding that: “the best solution is to get the children out of harm’s way and back to their home countries, with the rest of their families, as soon as possible”.
Turning to other regions, he said that Africa has seen a striking increase in ISIL and Al-Qaida-linked recruitment and violence, including Islamic State in West Africa Province in the Lake Chad Basin reinforcing its links to Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. In Europe, concerns include the release of 1,000 terrorism-related convicts, the effectiveness of rehabilitation programmes and the threat of online radicalization and attacks. Turning to the Asian region, an ISIL affiliate in Afghanistan suffered a major setback in November 2019, but remains active. Securing porous maritime borders in South-East Asia and addressing the role of women in operational planning, financing and executing attacks are among pressing regional concerns.
Highlighting recent activities of the Office of Counter-Terrorism, he said that ongoing efforts are possible due to generous support from donors, including the three largest — Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the European Union. As a result, the Office’s Counter-Terrorism Centre expanded its capacity-building efforts by developing a global counter-terrorism financing programme, and is now finalizing a project, with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, to support requests by Member States, given that ISIL may have as much as $300 million in reserves. A terrorist travel programme to help Member States implement Security Council resolutions is gaining momentum, with 33 confirmed beneficiaries and pilot countries. To stem the diversion of small arms and light weapons, the Centre launched a pilot project in Central Asia.
Other activities include strengthening cooperation with United Nations agencies, organizing regional workshops and developing a global programme on protecting vulnerable targets, he said. On 3 February, the Office of Counter‑Terrorism launched a global programme on the security of major sporting events and the promotion of sports in preventing and countering violent extremism conducive to terrorism, in partnership with the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, Alliance of Civilizations, United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute and the Qatar-based International Centre for Sport Security.
Cooperation of all relevant stakeholders is indispensable, he said, noting a range of forthcoming regional meetings. In addition, the second counter-terrorism week at the United Nations from 29 June to 2 July will feature the first Global Congress of Victims of Terrorism and the second United Nations High-Level Conference of Heads of Counter-Terrorism Agencies of Member States. “At a time of heightened divisions among Member States, we cannot afford to jeopardize the global fight against terrorism,” he said, urging the Council and Member States to maintain and reaffirm their unity in the face of persistent threats posed by ISIL, Al-Qaida and affiliates. He also called on the international community to maintain the sense of urgency and solidarity needed to save lives and support the victims and survivors of terrorism.
MICHÈLE CONINSX, Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, welcomed Ms. Freij’s participation in today’s meeting, declaring: “It is vital that we listen to the voices of those directly affected by ISIL’s atrocities and recognize the essential role played by women in building peaceful and resilient communities, and preventing terrorism and violent extremism.” Despite the military defeat of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIL/Da’esh in Syria, the group continues to adapt and evolve. The magnitude of the threat is well-documented, but solutions are not easy, she said, noting that thousands of ISIL-associated women and children remain in makeshift camps in appalling conditions. Leaving them to fight for survival, facing threats of further radicalization, would not only run counter to the common principles of humanity, but would also prove detrimental to global counter-terrorism efforts.
To assist Member States in understanding the challenges and trends associated with today’s terrorist threat, she said that the Directorate published two analytical briefs in 2019 on the repatriation of ISIL-associated women and children. Those highlight current approaches and challenges while emphasizing the urgent nature of the challenge. Urging States to avoid stereotyping and over‑simplifying in the development of their approaches, she noted that women associated with ISIL often have simultaneous roles as victims and perpetrators. Responses must therefore be gender-responsive, with tailored prosecutions and rehabilitation strategies that are consistent with international human rights standards. Meanwhile, she said, children — regardless of their affiliation — are primarily vulnerable victims and should be dealt with as such. “Through repatriation and rehabilitation efforts, the international community must work together to prevent recurring cycles of violence and further victimization and offer these children a life of dignity and safety,” she said.
Turning to efforts to bring ISIL perpetrators to justice, she said that the Directorate works closely with Member States and United Nations agencies to help identify gaps and facilitate the delivery of technical assistance. In its recent visits to Africa, the Directorate has noted a lack of mechanisms to address radicalization within correctional facilities, as well as ineffective training of officials to manage violent extremist detainees and the absence of rehabilitation and reintegration programmes. Across its dialogue with Member States, challenges were seen related to the lack of admissible evidence, failure to guarantee due process and fair trials, the determination of criminal responsibility and jurisdiction. To mitigate some of these issues, the Directorate issued its Military Evidence Guidelines in December 2019. They aim to strengthen the collection, handling, preservation and use of evidence collected by the military to prosecute terrorism-related offences, she said.
Expressing deep concern over the continued lack of progress in bringing to justice ISIL perpetrators of sexual violence, she said that women and children abducted by the group are still not reunited with their families and numerous children conceived through rape lack legal recognition. “The culture of impunity for sexual crimes still persists,” she said, urging States to act now to adopt survivor-centric and rights-based approaches to judicial remedied and repatriation efforts. In that regard, she welcomed the launch of the Global Survivors Network which will provide much-needed reparations and redress mechanisms to victims of sexual violence worldwide.
MONA FREIJI, an English teacher and civil society activist, briefing via video-teleconference from Istanbul, shared her experience in her hometown of Raqqa, Syria. She said that she still clearly remembers the shots fired when she was attacked by Da’esh soldiers before she fled. Enraged, Da’esh tortured and traumatized her family, she said, recalling that she learned of her brother and mother’s death while she was in exile. Since Raqqa was freed by its tyrannical grip, she returned to help improve conditions and report crimes Da’esh committed. Friends and family are still terrified, she said, recalling that peaceful means were used to counter Da’esh, including secret meetings, education and awareness-raising. Indeed, when she returned to Raqqa in 2017, she found many incredulous faces of people who could not believe the Da’esh occupation was over, including of incidents in which children were recruited and women were forced “to bear children by Da’esh” and “obey the orders of monsters”.
Having visited camps to ask people what they needed, she said that she has been trying to create a safe space for women, where they can train others in their area of expertise, from child care to using computers. While Da’esh has “left” Raqqa, the struggle against the tyranny of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria continues. “What makes me sad today is that the international community has forgotten us,” she said, adding that: “As I speak today, international law is being violated”, including targeted bombings of civilians. The only solution is a ceasefire and disarmament, with attention focused on Europe to continue the dialogue to end the conflict and impunity, she said.
MICHAEL BARKIN (United States) said that the coalition continues its work to combat terrorist financing and address concerns about foreign terrorist fighters. However, the scale of the threat is vast. Calling attention to the need to target each ISIL affiliate, including those in Africa, he asked all Council members to support the sanctions’ listing of such splinter groups. In addition, efforts must focus on preventing detention centres from becoming recruitment hubs, and ISIL foreign terrorist fighters should be repatriated and rehabilitated to prevent a new generation from emerging. For its part, Washington, D.C. intends to bring back every United States citizen from Syria to hold them accountable for their actions. Meanwhile, it is the Council’s moral responsibility to acknowledge atrocities and hold perpetrators to account. At the same time, the guise of counter-terrorism operations must never be used to target journalists and religious or minority groups. Individual rights must not be made subservient to collective security. As such, the Secretary-General and the United Nations must continue to work with relevant agencies and mechanisms. Raising concerns about Xinjiang, where people have been detained under the guise of counter-terrorism in a manner inconsistent with international law, he said that human rights and fundamental freedoms must be protected.
JUERGEN SCHULZ (Germany), noting that an imminent terrorist threat is unfolding in West Africa and the Lake Chad Basin, highlighted the need for international cooperation in line with global standards and principles and addressing the role of women. A transnational threat can only be dealt with through a partnership, he said, stressing that the Council must ensure a comprehensive approach to achieve sustainable success. Equally important are finding a common way of dealing with returning foreign terrorist fighters and combating financial flows. Counter-terrorist operations must never serve as a pretext for targeting ethnic or religious minorities, which is counterproductive. To help in this regard, international mechanisms must be available. The Council must include a gender dimension in its approach, which addresses the growth in recruitment of women by terrorist groups.
INGA RHONDA KING (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) joined other speakers in voicing concern that the threat posed by ISIL/Da’esh remains serious and foreign terrorist fighters are on the move, returning home from the so-called “caliphate” or relocating to other theatres of conflict. Urging all Member States to fully adhere to their obligations under Council resolution 2462 (2019), she said it is incumbent upon all countries to ensure that those financing, planning, perpetrating or supporting terrorist acts are brought to justice. At the same time, she also spotlighted the fact that “well-meaning but ill-fitting” regulatory attempts to combat the financing of terrorism have unintended effects on the banking system in small island locations. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, like many other countries, has put in place mechanisms to combat these scourges. She agreed with the briefers that addressing terrorism’s multidimensional threats requires gender-aware and gender-responsive approaches which are built upon the participation of women and address sexual and gender-based violence.
ADEL BEN LAGHA (Tunisia) said that battle-hardened foreign terrorist fighters pose a particular challenge, as they often join with local extremist groups or form “sleeper cells” of their own. Many militant fighters have moved from Syria to Libya, posing a serious threat to neighbouring countries and the entire Sahel region. Welcoming Council resolution 2462 (2019) on combating the financing of terrorism and resolution 2482 (2019) on the links between terrorism and transnational organized crime, he called for stronger cooperation and information‑sharing between States, as well as more capacity-building aimed at helping countries protect soft targets. As intra-State conflicts often serve as breeding grounds for terrorists, the Council should use all the tools available to resolve such conflicts and combat the trafficking of weapons. He also joined other speakers in underlining the importance of addressing the root causes of radicalization, calling for strengthened accountability mechanisms to hold perpetrators accountable and voicing concern about the use of social media to spread terrorist narratives to young people.
MARTHINUS VAN SCHALKWYK (South Africa) said that the resilience of ISIL/Da’esh demonstrates the group’s highly adaptive and resourceful nature, as well as the dogged commitment of some of its followers. Defeating it will require the international community to show equal determination, he said, calling for accountability for the group’s barbaric crimes. Sounding the alarm over the Secretary-General’s assessments regarding the threats posed by terrorism in Africa, where ISIL has begun to expand its presence, he spotlighted the activities of Islamic State in West Africa Province and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara s sources of particular concern. South Africa stands firmly alongside other African nations to fight terrorism on the continent and to prevent the erosion of its hard-won development gains. Tackling the threat must be carried out in conjunction with work to address the factors that gave rise to it, he stressed, calling for a multilateral response coordinated by the United Nations which includes strengthened cooperation with regional organizations.
SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) strongly condemned all forms of terrorism and agreed that, despite progress in fighting the phenomenon, it continues to represent an acute threat to international peace and security. ISIL/Da’esh and its affiliates are still at the centre of the threat, which is particularly prevalent in the Sahel region. “Terrorists are quick to adapt to changed situations and exploit vulnerabilities,” he said, underlining the United Nations crucial role in combating the phenomenon. The experience of the European Union, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other groups engaged in regional counter-terrorism activities confirms that international cooperation cannot be overstated. Estonia embraces a two-pronged approach — namely, security operations that go hand in hand with addressing the root causes of radicalization and terrorism. While the country has been untouched by terrorism directly, it is aware that no State is immune from the threat, and therefore contributes to counter-terrorism activities across various regions. Underscoring the importance of restoring justice and ensuring accountability for the most serious crimes — a crucial part of countering terrorism — he voiced support for the work of the International Mechanism in Iraq, as well as the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD).
WU HAITAO (China) said that the global counter-terrorism landscape is grim and action is needed to address these concerns, including ISIL’s continued reconfiguration and entrenched link with organized crime. As such, the international community must remain vigilant to prevent a resurgence of terrorism. Leveraging the central role of the Security Council and the United Nations counter-terrorism strategy remains essential. Moreover, the root causes of terrorism must be addressed, including by tackling poverty, strengthening education for youth and removing the elements of extremist ideologies. Affected Member States must receive the necessary support for counter-terrorism rehabilitation and retraining. Financial flows must be choked off and the United Nations should provide global guidance on dealing with foreign terrorist fighters. For its part, China has cooperated with Member States and the United Nations to combat terrorism.
Raising another concern, he categorically rejected the baseless comments made against his country by his counterpart from the United States on Xinjiang. China has taken law-based anti-terrorism measures which have produced good results. The situation in Xinjiang has been characterized by stability, economic growth and no terrorist attacks in the last few years. The Council is a global venue and not a platform for certain delegations to stage political shows, he said. The United States has plunged the world into turbulence, triggered humanitarian crises, instigated wars in the Middle East where Muslim populations are still suffering, and within its borders, rampant racial discrimination exists, he said, urging Washington, D.C., to, among other things, heed the advice of human rights organizations and close its prison in Guantanamo, Cuba. For its part, China has hosted delegations to visit Xinjiang to see for themselves. The United States should carefully listen to the international community and stop interfering in the internal affairs of China, politicizing the Council and seeking confrontations at the United Nations.
NIANDOU AOUGI (Niger) drew attention to an unprecedented spike in terrorist attacks in the Sahel, spanning from northern Mali to Burkina Faso and Niger. Such attacks increased more than fivefold in recent years, he said, recalling that 71 Nigerien soldiers were killed in a single attack in December 2019. The challenge is forcing countries of the region to allocate more than a quarter of their national budgets to counter-terrorism, to the detriment of their development efforts and the delivery of social services. While the joint force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) tasked with combating terrorism is making strides against Boko Haram and other terror groups, its funding remains insufficient. Among other things, he called on international partners to support the joint force in the name of collective security; bring the conflict in neighbouring Libya to a swift conclusion; strengthen the capacity of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA); prevent terrorist financing; facilitate information sharing on the presence and movement of terrorist groups; and support the development and governance efforts of affected countries in the Sahel.
ANTOINE IGNACE MICHON (France) urged Member States to undertake concerted efforts to forestall any possible resurgence of ISIL/Da’esh in the Levant. All stakeholders must also work to stop the dissemination of terrorist ideologies, including online. In that vein, he recalled that France launched the Christchurch Appeal in that wake of the massive 2019 terror attack in New Zealand, asking Internet companies and Governments to pledge to ensure that their sites do not become tools to be exploited by terrorists. Also voicing support for the drafting of guidelines on that issue — and for stronger legal and judicial mechanisms — he went on to note that France provides treatment and rehabilitation services for young people returning from terrorist front lines and is working to combat the financing of terrorism. The heinous crimes committed by ISIL/Da’esh — some of which may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity — must not go unpunished, he said, vowing to continue to support UNITAD’s work. Meanwhile, counter-terrorism must never be used as a pretext for discrimination against religious groups or to violate human rights, he said.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said that, as the ISIL/Da’esh threat evolves fast and takes on different forms, States must ensure that prevention measures and responses advance as quickly and with greater dynamism. How to address relocation, prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of returning foreign terrorist fighters and their families presents significant challenges, motivating Indonesia to jointly organize with the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate a regional meeting on the topic. Further efforts must be made to strengthen the coherence, coordination of prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of States’ strategies. To prevent recidivism, “we cannot undertake deradicalization efforts that only lead back to prison,” he said, advocating a comprehensive approach.
WELLINGTON DARIO BENCOSME CASTAÑOS (Dominican Republic) said that, despite progress, terrorist groups continue to inflict fear and pain in their quest for notoriety by staging attacks and spreading control through affiliate groups. Porous borders must be better monitored to stem the rising number of attacks that continue to claim hundreds of civilian and military lives. Calling for more cooperation on protection, repatriation and rehabilitation programmes for the most vulnerable, he remained concerned about poor conditions in camps such as Al Hol, where 70,000 women and children are being held. Efforts to assist them must also centre on destigmatizing and rehabilitation in line with international humanitarian and refugee laws. Policies must focus on individual needs, with due regard for the status of victims according to the Madrid Guiding Principles.
DANG DINH QUY (Viet Nam) called for greater cooperation and being “innovative in our actions”. Such efforts are especially crucial among relevant authorities in collecting, analysing and sharing intelligence information about imminent terrorist attacks, networks, recruitment, training and financing. Enhancing national capacities and building both national and regional institutional mechanisms are equally important. He expressed support for the United Nations central role in coordinating the global fight against terrorism, stressing that all relevant stakeholders must uphold the United Nations Charter and that the causes of terrorism — unresolved conflicts, poverty and inequality among them — must be tackled. He pressed the Council to exert greater efforts to resolve ongoing disputes and said regional organizations should play an instrumental role in that regard.
GENNADY V. KUZMIN (Russian Federation) highlighted several threats posed by ISIL, including its maintenance of underground networks in Iraq and Syria alongside fostering affiliates in Africa and attempting to expand into Asia. Indeed, efforts must be strengthened to apply the Council’s counter-terrorism resolutions to combat the spread of ISIL in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, ISIL is spreading into Libya from Idlib, Syria. Regarding the Al Hol camp, he reiterated that, wherever Syrian sovereignty is violated, there is no order and it is thus impossible to resolve counter-terrorism and humanitarian problems. Supporting the United Nations and its agencies to counter terrorist propaganda and combat financing, he regretted to note that certain States are funding terrorist groups, which is causing thousands of deaths and crises in some States. Offering an example, he said that, on 6 February, the Russian Federation presented the Security Council with evidence from the Russian military personnel in Syria about terrorist group activities. Another pressing issue is the fate of foreign terrorist fighters and their families, he said, noting that national traditional bodies must address the issue and the international community must respect existing laws in this regard. Unfortunately, some countries prefer to opt out from holding accountable their citizens’ actions in Iraq and Syria. For instance, foreign terrorist fighters who operate illegally in Idlib must be extradited to their countries of origin and duly punished. Cautioning that the Secretary‑General’s report on the threat of ISIL must not lose sight of the flow of money and military equipment, he said that terrorist groups in the Middle East continue to receive equipment shipments.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) said that Al-Qaida remains a destabilizing influence and the ISIL/Da’esh “brand”, while diminished, continues to constitute a major threat. The United Kingdom works with all concerned parties to ensure the repatriation of children affiliated with terrorist groups, treating each on a case-by-case basis. Spotlighting the complex and multiple roles played by women affected by ISIL/Da’esh, he called not only for security responses but for efforts — alongside civil society — to build societies’ resilience and “win over hearts and minds”. Recalling that the United Kingdom invited the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate for a second visit in 2019, he urged all countries to do the same, and to ensure that such visits “are not just for show”. Recalling that the Council has repeatedly stressed the importance of ensuring that human rights are fully respected in all counter-terrorism measures, he voiced concern about the on-going detention of Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang Province, as well as restrictions on their rights. While China may have terrorism concerns, its actions are disproportionate and indiscriminate and only risk exacerbating ethnic tensions. Responding to the statement delivered by the representative of China today, he said that delegation has itself raised the issue of Xinjiang in previous Council meetings. He also recalled the organ’s 6 February meeting on the offensive launched by the Syrian Government and the Russian Federation in Idlib, Syria, telling the Russian representative that tackling terrorism must never serve as an excuse for violations of international law.
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium), Council President for February, speaking in his national capacity, expressed alarm about the current movement of ISIL/Da’esh and Al-Qaida affiliates into the Sahel, Somalia and the Arabian Peninsula. Nor has the threat disappeared from Europe, he said, citing an attack in London on 3 February for which ISIL/Da’esh claimed responsibility. Calling for concerted international counter-terrorism efforts, he welcomed headway made to date in sharing advance airline passenger information and fighting extremism on the Internet. Turning to correctional matters, he called for the development of adequate, adapted common standards for both detainment and post-detention periods. He also joined other speakers in calling for stronger efforts to address the root factors driving radicalization and extremism, and for strict respect for international law in all counter-terrorism strategies.
Mr. WU (China) took the floor a second time in response to the statement delivered by the United Kingdom’s representative, rejecting the latter’s baseless accusations. Voicing regret that the United Kingdom has once again blindly followed the United States lead, he called on both countries to refrain from using the Council chamber to spread rumours or interfere in China’s internal affairs. Pointing out that the United Kingdom suffered its own terrorist attack just this week, he urged London to abandon its hypocrisy and double standards on the issue. China has mentioned Xinjiang in previous Council meetings because it knew other countries would use the issue to make trouble. Beijing’s position on Xinjiang is consistent, he said, rejecting any discussion of the topic in the Council and asking members to refrain from treating the organ as a showboat for unfounded allegations.