Monday 16 December 2019

UN makes bid to stop jihadis from travelling abroad

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama

Anna Rosenhirst

The UN Security Council is to demand that countries "prevent and suppress" the recruitment and travel of foreign fighters to join extremist militant groups like Islamic State by ensuring it is considered a serious criminal offence under domestic laws.

The move has been pushed by US President Barack Obama, who circulated a draft resolution earlier this week to the 15-member Security Council.

Washington is hoping that the resolution can be unanimously adopted at a high-level meeting chaired by Mr Obama later this month. A UN diplomat said the council was likely to reach agreement on the plan. A US official said there appeared to be consensus among council members on how to tackle foreign extremist fighters.

The draft resolution is under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which makes it legally binding for the 193 UN member states and gives the Security Council authority to enforce decisions with economic sanctions or force. However, the draft text does not mandate military force to tackle the foreign fighter issue.

The draft "decides all States shall ensure their domestic laws and regulations establish serious criminal offences sufficient to provide the ability to prosecute and to penalise in a manner duly reflecting the seriousness of the offence".

The Irish Independent recently revealed that as many as 35 Irish passport holders could be Jihadis in Syria.

The move would compel countries to make it illegal for citizens to travel abroad, collect funds or facilitate the travel of other individuals abroad "for the purpose of the perpetration, planning, or preparation of, or participation in, terrorist acts, or the providing or receiving of terrorist training".

It declares countries "shall, consistent with international human rights law, international refugee law, and international humanitarian law, prevent and suppress the recruiting, organising, transporting or equipping" of foreign fighters.

The draft resolution generally targets foreign extremist fighters travelling to conflicts anywhere in world, but has been spurred by the rise of Islamic State (Isil).

Some 12,000 fighters from 74 nations have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight with extremist groups, said Peter Neumann, a professor at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King's College London.

"It is easily the most significantly foreign fighter mobilisation since the Afghanistan war in the 1980s," he told reporters on Monday, noting the Afghan conflict led to the formation of the al Qa'ida network.

"Networks are being forged (in Syria and Iraq) that will be consequential and relevant for an entire generation to come," said Neumann, who has studied foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq for two years and this week met with Security Council members.

The US-draft calls on states "to require that airlines under their jurisdiction provide advance passenger information to the appropriate national authorities in order to detect the departure from their territory, or attempted entry into or transit through their territory" of people under UN sanctions.

Irish Independent

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