US State Dpt: Global Counterterrorism Forum in Istanbul
Friday, 8 June 2012, 12:13 pm
Press Release: US State Department
Background Briefing: Senior State Department Official on Global Counterterrorism Forum in Istanbul
Senior Department Official
June 7, 2012
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay. I’m sure you’re all exhausted, so I’ll try to be brief. A little background first on the Global Counterterrorism Forum and a little bit about tomorrow. I think you’ve seen the fact sheets.
It’s important to remember that Secretary Clinton came into office with a strong conviction that we needed a more comprehensive counterterrorism policy and that there was an important diplomatic role to be played. She believed strongly that it was not just a question of taking out the terrorists who were threatening us at any given moment, but that over the long term, we also needed to diminish recruitment, which the terrorists of course rely upon, and help others to do a better job defending themselves against the threats within their borders and in their regions.
You’ve heard her speak at great length about smart power. She – we very much consider this to be a smart power approach. We could call it strategic counterterrorism. And its core elements involve countering violent extremism, undermining the ideology of al-Qaida and other extremist groups, and capacity building. Those are really the two pillars.
And to advance that agenda, she led the effort to create the Global Counterterrorism Forum, a multilateral informal body that is established to focus on those two areas and to really concentrate on strengthening civilian institutions in frontline states around the world. The GCTF was established last September in New York. The United States co-chairs this group with Turkey. She and Foreign Minister Davutoglu presided over the launch, and there are 30 members of the GCTF – 29 countries and the EU.
The GCTF sought from the outset to bridge old and deep divides in the international community between Western donor nations and Muslim majority nations. And it has, I think, done that quite effectively. You have, I know, the lists of the members, so I won’t go through all those. I also wanted – I also sought to bring in the other great powers – China, India, Russia – as well as geographic representation from all continents. So that sort of explains the composition.
At the outset, the group sort of exceeded expectations from the beginning with the announcement of two important deliverables: One was roughly $90 million to support rule of law programming in primarily transition states – those of the Arab Awakening – and there was a great deal of support for that --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: -- to that end. And also the United Arab Emirates stepped forward and announced its intention to create the first Global Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism.
To bring you up to date, that project is going forward and we expect that the center, with support from the United States and many other GCTF countries, will open its doors in October. And the rule of law work has also gone forward in very important ways --
QUESTION: What is the Center of Excellence? Is that like a hall of fame or something?
MODERATOR: Guys, why don’t we let him finish, and then we’ll go to questions. Go ahead, please.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The Center of Excellence just – since it does deserve some elaboration – is going to be focused on training, research, and dialogue. And it is going to be a center that provides best practices to a whole array of different kinds of groups, government officials, so that they can help make the policies that will result in a diminution of radicalization. It will also deal with NGOs, communities, religious leaders, and the like.
So the – just to come back for one second to the organization of the GCTF, it consists of a coordinating committee, and that is the sort of superstructure, and beneath that there are five working groups, two functional ones. Countering Violent Extremism is one, and that is co-chaired by the UAE and the UK. Another one is the Rule of Law and Criminal Justice. We co-chair that with the Egyptians. There are also three regional working groups: one in the Sahel, one in the Horn of Africa, one in Southeast Asia. The --
Tomorrow we will have the first plenary at the ministerial level since the group was created last September. In the interim, all the working groups have help meetings, some of them multiple meetings. The key initiatives that will be rolled out are as follows. There will be a set of good practices in the criminal justice sector. The document is called the Rabat Memorandum on Good Practices for Effective Counterterrorism Practice in the Criminal Justice Sector. And that is essentially a blueprint for further programs in this area so that countries will have – I’m sorry, let me back up – so that there will be essentially an agreed-upon plan that members of the GCTF will work off of as they provide assistance to different countries so that they can improve the quality of their police, their investigators, their prosecutors, their judiciary, and even their legislators so that they can write better laws for dealing with terrorism.
So the Rabat Memorandum is one blueprint for that. Another blueprint that’s going to be rolled out is called the Rome Memorandum. This has to do with practices for prisons for rehabilitating violent extremists, for essentially disengaging them from groups that they may be involved with and radical ideologies that they may be attracted to. This too is going to be a blueprint for technical assistance. We have worked closely with the UN on this one, and a number of countries will be supporting the work in this area. And we’ve already been getting requests for technical assistance. As many of you know, prisons have become really one of the primary incubators of terrorists, and this is an effort to roll that back.
A number of countries will announce a range of deliverables, support for these different programs as well as some programs of their own that they will be rolling out. There will be an update on the progress in terms of opening the center in the UAE. And finally, there will be the announcement of the intention to establish an international training center dedicated to carrying out the kinds of trainings that I talked about in the Rabat – with the Rabat Memorandum. There’s going to be an actual center of excellence, if you will, another institution focused on delivering those trainings for criminal justice institutions and other rule of law institutions. That – the location of that will be announced shortly, but I’m not prepared to say where it’s going to be just yet.
So that’s – those are the outlines, and if you have questions, I’m happy to answer them.
QUESTION: You have – the Egyptians are a co-chairing rule of law working group?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, let me – actually, let me just elaborate on that for one second. One of the goals of the GCTF has been to go beyond the historic debates that have come – bedeviled counterterrorism for a long time to get away from the question of who is a terrorist, for example, and to really let the experts in these various areas come together and work in a very pragmatic way to really get things done. As the Secretary said at the launch, we don’t need another talk shop.We need to be action -oriented. And we very much have tried to realize her vision in that regard.
And so the interesting thing is that the Rule of Law Working Group – the folks who are doing it for our side, it’s the Department of Justice. It’s not the State Department doing this. So it’s the real practitioners rolling up their sleeves and working on very, very practical issues and thinking about what kind of programs they can institute so that others will benefit from the insights that the group brings to bear.
Turkey spoke about its work in the field of international police cooperation in CT matters, including those related to the PKK and al-Qaida. With respect to the former, Turkey highlighted that the PKK continues to recruit and raise funds in Europe. Turkey noted that its extradition requests in terrorism cases have been refused much more often that requests in drug trafficking and other non-terrorism criminal cases; other countries noted that there are often evidentiary issues associated with some terrorism extradition requests. Turkey also enumerated some of the different forms of CT cooperation activities it undertakes with other countries, which include meeting with police liaison officers, cooperation between judicial units, joint investigations, mutual legal assistance (MLA) requests and meetings between prosecutors, trainings, and information exchanges. Turkey concluded by noting that although CT legal frameworks may differ from country to country, all have some legislation to allow for respect of other countries’ views on CT issues.
Colombia spoke about the use electronic surveillance in terrorism cases, with a particular emphasis on ensuring due process and other human rights are respected, including through appropriate judicial and other legal oversight. In order to carry out electronic surveillance in Colombia against a suspected terrorist, a legal threshold must be met; sometimes suspicion coupled with legally-obtained evidence is sufficient. After the legal threshold has been met, the prosecution can authorize law enforcement analysts in special wiretap centers to carry out the
electronic surveillance. It was noted that although communication intercepts have proven invaluable in reactive investigations (i.e., after an attack), they should be used more often to proactively gather information to help prevent terrorist acts that are in their planning phase.
Following the presentation, working group members discussed the need to balance conducting justified electronic surveillance and preventing the violation of human rights. Participants generally agreed that 1) electronic surveillance is an important and effective CT technique premium; 2) national legal frameworks should be flexible enough to evolve with changing communications technologies like Skype and investigative techniques; 3) enhanced international cooperation in this field is important given the increasing need to obtain information housed in other countries; and 4) more attention should be given to training law enforcement officials on how to preserve and shared often valuable electronic intelligence/evidence as well as to training judges on how to accept evidence extracted from electronic surveillance. The UN Office of Drugs and Crime’s Terrorism Prevention Branch (UNODC TPB) spoke about how it is developing a training module on the preservation, use, and sharing of evidence obtained via the Internet.