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International Law and the underlying Extra-legal Factors that influence Terrorism

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The world shivers at the mention of terrorism. As a matter of fact, modern terrorism has proven to pose the most serious threat to global peace and human rights. Despite the possibilities of other elements influencing the actions made by the terrorists, media reports continued to label the attackers as fanatic Islamic terrorists and Muslim guerrillas.

As if being Muslim equates to being a terrorist, the former became synonymous with the latter. Due to the bias created by the media, there is a disregard of the extra-legal elements other than religion that affect terrorism. The understanding of terrorism is therefore amorphous and vague, creating a lacuna within the international law and instruments that are created to fight it.

In this essay, I discuss the relationship of international law with the understanding of terrorism as an international crime. The focus is not only Islam but also all religions. I aim to probe that religion is only one of the elements that influence terrorism. However, the affiliation of religion with terror is not surprising. There have been various attacks that were planned and carried out in the name of religion, but what is usually overlooked is that religion itself is not always behind the attacks, and other extra-legal factors influence the attackers and their reasons. This bias is reflected by the media, which plays a huge role in establishing what terrorism is and who is seen as a terrorist.

International community has taken several initiatives to enact multilateral instruments to eliminate terrorism with the aim of protecting basic human rights and eliminating any threat to such priority. International law targeted terrorism in two ways: the first was through enacting multilateral treaties which are open to all States to sign; and the second is the result of onerous efforts by the General Assembly to execute a series of legal recommendations to help States fight terrorism. Today, there are approximately 12 Conventions and Protocols that legislate on terrorism. For the purposes of this essay, three Conventions will be examined: the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (1997),which is said to fill the  lacunae  regarding  the  investigation,  prosecution  and  extradition  of  terrorists;the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism   (1999), which was claimed to be created in the hope of crippling the whole structure of terrorism;and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005), which arguably targets nuclear weapons and their production to prevent abuse by terrorists.

International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (1997)

As a result of the improvement in technology and transport, bomb attacks are easier to plan, while explosives are conveniently accessible. This, and the increasing number of suicide bombers, has negatively affected the arduous war against terrorism, as the world struggles to control and monitor terrorists. In 2001, one of the men responsible for the Al-Khobar Towers attack on an American base in Saudi Arabia was indicted. The attack reportedly injured five hundred people, while nineteen perished. The alleged terrorist and his partners used a farm as the main area for building the bomb truck that was used in the attack. Extradition was sought by the USA, but Saudi Arabia rejected the extradition claim on the basis that the attack occurred on Saudi soil and that the terrorists were nationals.

This specific case gives rise to several extra-legal factors, such as the religious element, because the terrorists were reportedly linked to Hezbollah Al Hijaz– a Saudi Shiite opposition group that allegedly carried out several terrorist attacks and the political element, because the targeted group was foreign American military personnel and not non-army civilians, according to the findings of United States of America vs. Ahmed Mughassil(2001) case in US.

The UN, with the aim of enacting legislation that governs bomb attacks, adopted the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (1997).The Convention incorporates several essential elements targeting terrorism, for example, prohibiting any individual from acquiring and detonating explosives (Articles 1 and 2);providing that any individual charged with this crime must be prosecuted [Article 7(2)];and administering the extradition of the alleged terrorists (Article 9). However, the most swelling Article in the Convention must be Article 5, which recognizes the existence of extra-legal factors, stating that acts of terrorism are not “justifiable by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature (Article 5).” Therefore, it is clear that the Convention does recognize extra-legal factors, but has yet to accept their influence on terrorism; thus, failing to address it. In other words, the Convention pushes States to ignore those extra-legal elements; it takes a ‘punish but not prevent’ approach. This means that the Convention punishes acts of terrorism but fails to identify the root causes, and therefore is inadequate in preventing any future attacks.

In the case of the bombing of the Al-Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, for example, it could be argued that the motivations for the attack were merely political for two reasons: the attack was carried out by individuals associated to Hezbollah–the radical opposition group, and the chosen targets were military personnel. It is true that motivations do not act as justification, but addressing the root motives helps further develop understanding of terrorism as a whole in order to prevent future atrocities. Theoretically, if the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (1997) required States to investigate and control the cause, the reasons behind various types of terrorism could be uprooted. In other words, if the Convention provided for an investigation of the reasons behind the attack, both the terrorist individual and the group he or she is affiliated with would undergo scrutiny and repercussions to prevent future violations of human rights.

Furthermore, linking the extra-legal factors could help in identifying future possible targets. For example, religiously-motivated terrorists usually attack other religions, terrorists motivated by politics attack parliaments and military power, while personal vendettas and psychological issues might contribute to school shootings. Terrorist bomb attacks are planned on objectives that must be achieved: to kill as many people as possible to send a political message or to destroy symbolic objects and property. These comprehensive understanding of terrorism activities may lead States to prevent terrorist attacks far before they are taken place. Therefore, measures by the international community must be taken to incorporate binding Conventions and Articles that target the root cause of terrorist bombings.

 International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (1999)

The Abu Sayyaf group – a terrorist group based in the Philippines, suffered from a major loss in numbers of armed militants affiliated to it as a result of financial difficulties. In fact, there were reportedly only two hundred armed militants connected to Abu Sayyaf. In the hope of fiscal growth, the group carried out several kidnapping operations, according to Australian National Security.

Abu Sayyaf is not the only terrorist group that sought financial aid through crime: Al Qaeda receives funds from drug trafficking and kidnapping as reported in CNN on May 04, 2011, while other groups use extortion to build their empires. However, at times, financial aid is willingly given to these terrorist groups. After the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, the USA received confidential information relating to a sheikh in Yemen, who planned financing Al Qaeda. The informant claimed that up to USD20 million had been raised, which was to be transferred in cargo under the name of a honey trading business in order to avoid raising suspicion, according to Michael Freeman and MoyaraRuehsen in their article entitled “Terrorism Financing Methods: An Overview” at Perspectives on Terrorism in 2013 (Vol. 7, No. 4). Therefore, the fight against terrorism should not be merely directed towards violent acts but must also target the financing and sponsoring of terrorism, which can be made through: bank transfers, fundraising through fake charitiesor donations by wealthy individuals.

Measures have been taken by the UN to combat the financial support of terrorism. For example, the Security Council adopted sanctions that froze all funds of the Taliban– a radical terrorist organization through Security Council Resolution No. 1333 of 2000.However, an important institutive action was the enactment of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (1999). The Convention shares similar Articles to those found in theInternational Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings Convention (1997).Therefore, development on the targets of international law was limited. However, one distinct characteristic of the Convention is that it aims to destroy the core of terrorism –if finances are suspended, then executing terrorist operations will prove difficult due to the lack of sufficient funds.

Nevertheless, the Convention fails to target the reasons behind why individuals fund terrorism. There may be some psychological factors relating to the reasons why an individual might finance terrorism, for example, frustration with certain lifestyles or just the support of extremist ideologies might trigger an individual to support terrorist acts. Moreover, support of those ideologies and philosophies might be inherited or learned through biological factors, culture and socialization.

Economically, financing terrorism is not only beneficial to the terrorist group sponsored but also to the provider of the funds. For example, if Iraq is the leading State in the production of oil, then using terrorism cripples its production rate. Consequently, it helps advance the oil business other competitor States. This is because foreign investors and international firms consider the quality of peace as being more attractive.

On the other hand, the political reasons are very similar to factors that aim to ruin a State’s economy. However, politics are also influenced by various factors, such as culture, the spread of different ideologies and interest groups, and religion. Financing terrorism could be a way with which autocratic political leaders express disdain towards another State. Despite all of these extra-legal factors that influence the financing of terrorism, the Convention fails to address these issues.

International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005)

The past two decades have witnessed a significant increase in terrorist destructiveness. The profound fear of nuclear weapons is understandable because the consequences are not only deadly but cause catastrophe on a global scale. If the Hiroshima and Nagasaki tragedies in 1945 are any indication, then another nuclear explosion will result in massive international damage. These grave violations of rights and disrespect for human life were enough to instill fear within most States; in other words, the lesson was learned.

Nuclear weapons became attractive to all types of organizations: both States and terrorist groups. For example, the Pelindaba attack in South Africa in 2007 caused public and legal uproar over the protection needed relating to nuclear materials. The attack reportedly involved two groups of men, who gained access to a control room in a corporation that stored hundreds of kilograms of highly enriched uranium. Despite the fact that the motives for the breach on the corporation’s estate are unknown yet, it was obvious that nuclear weapons have gained the attention of criminals and terrorists, and, hence, better laws and protective measures are needed.

The main international convention regulating nuclear weapons is the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005). Similar to the International Convention  for  the  Suppression  of  Terrorist  Bombings  (1997)  and  the  International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (1999), this Convention rejects any justification for terrorism (Article 6). However, its main failure is its lack of jurisdiction over States [Article 4(4)]. In other words, it only applies to terrorist groups, individuals and organizations. This lack of application to States is illogical for two reasons: the first nuclear wars were started by States during the Second World War and not terrorist groups,and States that sponsor terrorism do not fall within the jurisdiction of the Convention (2005), and, thus, cannot be held accountable. Moreover, any terrorist group seeking a nuclear weapon requires a state source to enable it to obtain certain materials needed to build the weapon. Thus, since a connection with a state is crucial for terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons, the Convention should have jurisdiction over states and be able to hold them accountable.

In addition, nuclear-weapon States are States that have rights to develop nuclear weapons under the Treaty of Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (1968). These are: China, Russia, the USA, the United Kingdom (UK) and France. The Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (1968) governs the production of nuclear energy and its peaceful use and includes three pillars: criminalizing the transferring of nuclear weapons (Articles 1 and 2); binding States to peacefully use and develop nuclear energy (Article 5); and supporting nuclear disarmament (Article 6). Nevertheless, the five nuclear-weapon States have adopted different policies towards using their nuclear weapons, but have maintained that nuclear weapons will be used if deemed necessary. Nevertheless, all five States use the idea of ‘self-defence’ or ‘deterrence’ to justify owning nuclear weapons with the aim of persuading potential enemies that the risk of using nuclear weapons against those five States is higher than the gains.But what about the right of those potential adversaries to self-defence and deterring measures?

This is where the extra-legal factors are triggered – mainly political factors. The fact that only certain States are legally able to possess nuclear weapons alienates other States; specifically, if there is an already-existing conflict. These political implications give rise to intra-State rivalry, further motivating States to use terrorism as a method. Instead of granting attention to the political factors that could result in a nuclear war, the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005) states that offences found in this Convention are not to be “regarded…[a]s an offence inspired by political motives (Article 15)”. In other words, the Convention fails to address the political factors that increase the chances of a nuclear war because it disregards the possibility of a State helping a terrorist group, and ignores political inequality relating to owning nuclear weapons.

Conclusion

It is true that religion does have an influence on terrorism, but it is not greater than the influence of other extra-legal factors. Notwithstanding the fact that the media is the key factor behind labeling religion with terrorism, scholars have also extensively related religion to terrorism. This failure to accurately address terrorism resulted in an international lacuna – a gap that led to an increase in the number of terrorist groups.

The war on terrorism requires the adoption of both social and legal measures. Failure to act will only lead to an increase in powerful terrorist groups. The current fight against terrorism is unrealistic. In fact, measures taken rely on compliance with international law. However, compliance with law is the last concern of terrorist groups.

With regard to the legal situation, the first and foremost important change needed is an international consensus on the meaning of terrorism; the UN has yet to agree on a functional definition.

Furthermore, in order to socially combat terrorism, stereotypes of Muslims must be eradicated. This is because the alienation of Muslims in Western societies might act as a sociological factor that may motivate an individual to seek revenge through executing terrorist acts. Moreover, bias and discrimination would result in Muslims employing a defence mechanism to protect themselves. This defence mechanism might develop into hostility towards civilians, the government and political authorities. Therefore, the religious focus must shift to include several extra-legal elements in order to consider all possible motivations relating to terrorism.

Economic issues must also be targeted and resolved to lessen the attractiveness of incentives promised by terrorist groups to potential recruits. Furthermore, more research is required relating to the effects of psychological factors associated with terrorism. Social issues are very important in combating terrorism because they have a major influence over human behavior.

No matter how successful legal Conventions and Resolutions against terrorism are, they will not eradicate terrorist acts. International Conventions are useful in establishing that no crime will go unpunished, but terrorists disdain the nature of law. Therefore, respect for it is non- existent. As a result, the international community must collaborate on both legal measures and methods to analyze extra-legal factors in order to stop the formation or expansion of terrorist groups.

Mahmudul Hasan is a recent LL.M. graduate of energy and environmental law and Thomas Buergenthal Fellow at The George Washington University Law School, Washington, D.C.

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Terrorism

Stateless and Leftover ISIS Brides

Sagar N

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While the World is busy fighting the pandemic and the economic devastation caused by it, one of the important problem that has been pushed to dormancy, is the status of the ISIS(Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) brides. The Pandemic has crippled the capacity of the law enforcement and exploiting this the ISIS executed attacks in Maldives, Iraq, and the Philippines. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that terrorists are exploiting the COVID-19 Pandemic. Albeit the ISIS has been defeated, approximately ten thousand of them are in ISIS detention centres in Northern Syria under Kurds. Most of these detention centres are filled by women and children, who are relatives or widows of the ISIS fighters. With their native states denouncing them, the status of the stateless women and children is unclear.

As it stands today states’ counter-terrorism approach has been primarily targeting male militants but women also have played a role in strengthening these terrorist organizations. Women involvement in militant organizations has increased as they perform several activities like birthing next-generation militants/jihadists, managing the logistics and recruiting the new members to the organizations. The world did not recognize women as key players in terrorist organizations until the 1980s when females held major roles in guerilla wars of southern America. Women have either willingly or unwillingly held a variety of roles in these extremist organizations and Islamist terrorist organizations like Hamas and al-Qaeda women do simply provide moral support.

According to the media reports since the US withdrawal from Iraq in 2006 female suicide attacks have been increased and they have been extensively part of ISIS. The ISIS had a female brigade which they called as Al-Khansaa which was established to perform search activities in the state. Both foreign and domestic recruits in the Islamic state have participated in brutal torture. A recently acquired logbook from a guesthouse in Syria provides important information about 1100 females who joined the organization, the western women who are called as ‘the muhajirat’.

When the people from rest of the world joined organizations such as ISIS, they burnt their passports and rejected their national identity. Especially women from western countries who were radicalized online based on their phenomenon ‘ISIS brides/Jihadi brides’ to marry terrorists. Since Islamic State isnot recognized by the world these marriages are not legally valid, apart from this a number of these brides have experienced sexual torture and extreme violence.

While the erstwhile members of the extremist organizations like ISIS and others are left adrift the one challenging question remaining is should states and their societies keep them and reengage or rehabilitate or prosecute them. How firmly the idea of their erstwhile organization is stuck in their minds and especially the followers who crossed the world to join remains a concern to many. The U.S backed Kurdish forces across turkey border hold thousands of these left-behind women and children in their centre. Hundreds of foreign women and children who were once part of an aspirant state, The caliphate are now floating around the concentration camps in Syria, Turkey and Kurdish detention centres and prisons. Many are waiting to return to their origin countries. They pose a unique challenge to their native states like whether to include them or not and even if they include how to integrate adults who at least for a time part of these terrorist organizations and what to do with children who are too young to understand the politics and obstacles keeping them in camps and detention centres where resources are scarce. Women present a problem because its hard to know what kind of crimes they have committed beyond the membership of the terrorist organization.

It is no secret that women also have been part of insurgency across the world, like in ISIS,LTTE,PIRA and PFLP. The responsibility of women in ISIS includes wife to ISIS soldiers, birthing the next generation of jihad and advancing ISIS’ global reach through online recruiting. The International Center for Study of Radicalization (ICAR) estimates that out of 40000 people joined ISIS from 80 different countries nearly 8000 are women and children. After the defeat of ISIS and such extreme organization those who are left behind possess the ideological commitment and practical skills which again a threat upon return to home countries.

The states across the world are either revoking the citizenship or ignore their responsibility. The most famous case of Shamima  Begum a UK citizen married to an ISIS fighter whose citizenship was revoked by the UK government. In other cases like HodaMuthana of the USA and Iman Osman of Tunisia have been the same case. As recently as Tooba Gondal an ISIS bride who now in a detention camp in northern Syria begged to go home in the UK in a public apology.

The American president Donald Trump issued a statement saying women who joined ISIS cannot return. The NATO deputy head said “…returning ISIS fighters and brides must face full rigours of the law”. Revoking the citizenship and making someone stateless is illegal under international law and it is also important to know how gendered these cases are because the UK have successfully prosecuted Mohammad Uddin and the USA has also done it so. Stripping off their citizenship itself a punishment before proper trail and the only good out of it would state can take their hands off in dealing with cases. Samantha Elhassani the only American who repatriated from Iraq so far and pleaded guilty for supporting ISIS. Meanwhile, France is trying to route its citizens who joined the ISIS and extradited few who are under trial in Bagdad.

As experts and political analysts say “countries should take responsibility for their own citizens” because failure to do so will also make the long term situation more dangerous as jihadists will try to a hideout and turn into militant groups for their protection. The children, the second-generation ISIS need cultural centres and rehabilitation centres and this is an international problem. These women known as jihadists brides suffer from a post-traumatic stress disorder and many are pregnant or multiple children born in ISIS territory.

In some countries travelling abroad to join the insurgencies in North Africa and Syria was not always a criminal act, Sweden criminalized such act recently but to prosecute them proof of offences committed in the conflict zone is difficult to collect and most countries in the world do not allow the pre-trial detention for more than 14 days. With problems of different national Lawson extradition and capital punishment and to prosecute them in conflict countries is also a challenge for states. Since Kurdish forces have signalled that they cannot bring all the prisoners into justice the home countries will have to act or else it might create a long term dangerous situation. With the civil war in Syria is about to end it is time to address these issues because since there are more ISIS fighters in Kurdish prisons and detention centres they could be influenced to join rebels who are fighting the regime of Assad in last standing province of Idlib.

If the governments reject the repatriation applications then they will be signalling that their action is essential for national security and thus asserting that failed or poorly resourced states are better equipped to handle potential extremists. The criminal system in Iraq is corrupt and human rights violations have been reported and which creates the risk of further radicalization. One should not forget that even citizenship of Osama bin laden was also stripped but which did not stop him from forming al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. If the citizens commit crimes and forget their responsibility then the states must bring them to justice instead of stripping citizenship. The states must come with a solution for this problem before its too late, setting up an international tribunal to deal with these cases would be a great start but these tribunals are time-consuming and expensive.

States must act as a responsible actor in the international system. Jihadist terrorism is a global problem and states must act together to deal with it because with nearly 40000 fighters joining caliphate from across the world it only shows how global and deeply rooted the phenomenon is. Instead of stripping their citizens’ citizenship, states must find a way to act together for the peace and security of the international community.

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Terrorism

COVID-19: Game-changer for international peace and security

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In Iraq, children look over a wall at clouds of smoke from burning oil wells, the result of oil fires set by ISIL. © UNICEF/Lindsay Mackenzie

The world has “entered a volatile and unstable new phase” in terms of the impact of COVID-19 on peace and security, the UN chief told a virtual meeting with world leaders on Wednesday.

Speaking at one of a series of international meetings among heads of State to enhance global cooperation in fighting terrorism and violent extremism, as part of the Aqaba Process, Secretary-General António Guterres said the pandemic was more than a global health crisis.

“It is a game-changer for international peace and security”, he spelled out, emphasizing that the process can play a key role in “promoting unity and aligning thinking” on how to beat back the pandemic.

Warning lights flashing

Mr. Guterres maintained that the coronavirus has exposed the basic fragility of humankind, laid bare systemic and entrenched inequalities, and thrust into the spotlight, geopolitical challenges and security threats.

“The warning lights are flashing”, he said, pointing out that as the virus is “exacerbating grievances, undermining social cohesion and fueling conflicts”, it is also likely to “act as a catalyst in the spread of terrorism and violent extremism”.

Moreover, international tensions are being driven by supply chain disruptions, protectionism and growing nationalism – with rising unemployment, food insecurity and climate change, helping to fuel political unrest.

A generation in crosshairs

The UN chief also noted that a generation of students is missing school.

“A whole generation…has seen its education disrupted”, he stated. “Many young people are experiencing a second global recession in their short lives.”

He explained that they feel left out, neglected and disillusioned by their prospects in an uncertain world.

Wanted: Global solidarity 

The pandemic has highlighted vulnerabilities to emerging threats such as bioterrorism and cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure.

“The world faces grave security challenges that no single country or organization can address alone”, upheld the Secretary-General, “there is an urgent need for global unity and solidarity”.

Recalling the UN’s Virtual Counter-Terrorism Week in July, he reminded that participants called for a “reinvigorated commitment to multilateralism to combat terrorism and violent extremism”.

However, a lack of international cooperation to tackle the pandemic has been “startling”, Mr. Guterres said, highlighting national self-interest, transactional information sharing and manifestations of authoritarianism. 

‘Put people first’

The UN chief stressed that “we must not return to the status quo ante“.

He outlined the need to put people first, by enhancing information sharing and technical cooperation “to prevent terrorists exploiting the pandemic for their own nefarious goals” and thinking “long-term solutions rather than short-term fixes”.

“This includes upholding the rights and needs of victims of terrorism…[and] the repatriation of foreign terrorist fighters, especially women and children,  and their dependents to their countries of origin”, he elaborated.

Closing window 

Meanwhile, the risk of COVID-19 is exacerbating the already dire security and humanitarian situation in Syrian and Iraqi camps housing refugees and the displaced.

“The window of opportunity is closing so we must seize the moment”, the UN chief said. “We cannot ignore our responsibilities and leave children to fend for themselves and at the mercy of terrorist exploitation”.

He also expressed confidence that the Aqaba Process will continue to “strengthen international counter-terrorism cooperation, identify and fill capacity gaps, and address evolving security threats associated with the pandemic”, and offered the UN’s “full support”.

Post-COVID rebuilding 

The Secretary-General also addressed the Centenary Summit of the International Organization of Employers (IOE) on how private and public sector cooperation can help drive post-COVID change. 

He lauded the IOE’s “significant contributions” to global policymaking for economic and social progress, job creation and a mutually beneficial business environment, calling it “an important pillar of the International Labour Organization (ILO) since its earliest days”.  

“Today, our primary task is to defeat the pandemic and rebuild lives, livelihoods, businesses, and economies”, he told the virtual Summit.

In building back, he underscored that workers and small business be protected, and everyone be given the opportunity to fulfil their potential. 

Businesses input

The UN chief urged businesses to engage with the multilateral system to create a “conducive global environment for decent work, investment, and sustainability”; and with the UN at the national level, to help ensure that multilateralism “works on the ground”.    

He also encouraged them to actively participate in national and global public-private dialogue and initiatives, stressing, “there must be space for them to do so”. 

Tripartite cooperation

ILO chief Guy Ryder highlighted the need for “conscious policy decisions and tripartite cooperation to overcome transformational challenges”, such as technological change and climate change, as well as COVID-19. 

Mr. Ryder also flagged that employers must continue to collaborate in social dialogue and maintain their commitment to both multilateralism and the ILO.

The IOE represents more than 50 million companies and is a key partner in the international multilateral system for over 100 years as the voice of business at the ILO, across the UN, the G20 richest countries and other emerging forums.

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Traumas of terrorism cannot be erased, but victims’ voices must never be forgotten

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In remembering and honouring all victims of terrorism, Secretary-General António Guterres said the UN stands by those who grieve and those who “continue to endure the physical and psychological wounds of terrorist atrocities”.

“Traumatic memories cannot be erased, but we can help victims and survivors by seeking truth, justice and reparation, amplifying their voices and upholding their human rights”, he stressed.

Keep spotlight on victims, even amid pandemic

This year’s commemoration takes place against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, when vital services for victims, such as criminal justice processes and psychosocial support, have been interrupted, delayed or ended as Governments focus attention and resources on fighting the pandemic.

Moreover, many memorials and commemorations have been cancelled or moved online, hampering the ability of victims to find solace and comfort together. 

And the current restrictions have also forced the first-ever UN Global Congress of Victims of Terrorism has to be postponed until next year.

“But it is important that we keep a spotlight on this important issue,” stressed the UN chief.

“Remembering the victims of terrorism and doing more to support them is essential to help them rebuild their lives and heal”, said Mr. Guterres, including work with parliamentarians and governments to draft and adopt legislation and national strategies to help victims.

The Secretary-General vowed that “the UN stands in solidarity with all victims of terrorism – today and every day” and underscored the need to “ensure that those who have suffered are always heard and never forgotten”.

Terrorism unjustifiable

General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande saluted the resilience of terrorist survivors and called the day “an opportunity to honour the memories of the innocent civilians who have lost their lives as a result of terrorist acts around the world”.

“Terrorism, in all forms and manifestations, can never be justified”, he stated. “Acts of terrorism everywhere must be strongly condemned”.
The UN commits to combating terrorism and the Assembly has adopted resolutions to curb the scourge while working to establish and maintain peace and security globally. 

Strengthen assistance

Mechanisms for survivors must be strengthened to safeguard a “full recovery, rehabilitation and re-integration into society through long-term multi-dimensional support”, stated the UN official.

“Together we can ensure that you live a full life defined by dignity and freedom. You are not alone in this journey. You are not forgotten”, concluded the Assembly president.

‘Human dimension’ 

Closing the event, Vladimir Voronkov, chief of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, maintained that victims represent “the very human dimension of terrorism”.

While terrorists try to depersonalize victims by reducing them to mere numbers or statistics, Mr. Voronkov maintained that “we have a responsibility to do the exact opposite”.

“We must see victims’ hopes, dreams and daily lives that have been shattered by terrorist violence – a shattering that carries on long after the attack is over”, he stated. “We must ensure their human rights are upheld and their needs are met”.

Reaffirming humanity

While acknowledging the “terrible reality of terrorism”, Mr. Voronkov flagged that the survivors shine as “examples of resilience, and beacons of hope, courage and solidarity in the face of adversity”.

In reaffirming “our common humanity”, he urged everyone to raise awareness of victims needs and rights.

“Let us commit to showing them that they are not alone and will never be forgotten”, concluded the Counter-Terrorism chief.

Survivors remember

At the virtual event, survivors shared their stories while under lockdown, agreeing that the long-term impacts of surviving any kind of an attack is that the traumatic experience never really goes away.

Tahir from Pakistan lost his wife in attack against the UN World Food Programme (WFP) office in Islamabad.  

“If you have an accident, you know how to cope with it. Terminal illness, you know how to cope with it. But there is no coping mechanism for a person who dies in an act of terror”, he said.

Meanwhile Nigeel’s father perished in the 1998 US Embassy attack in Kenya, when he was just months years old. 

The 22 year-old shared: “When you are growing, it really doesn’t have a heavy impact on you, but as life starts to unfold, mostly I’ll find myself asking if I do this and my dad was around, would he be proud of me?”

And Julie, from Australia, lost her 21-year-old daughter in the 2017 London Bridge attack.

“The Australian police came to our house and said ‘we have a body, still not confirmed’, so they recommended that we fly to London”, she recalled. “I can’t describe how devastating as a parent to lose a child in these circumstances is for the rest of your life”.

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