Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) 21st GCTF Coordinating Committee (CoCo) Meeting “GCTF – Through an African Lens” Keynote Remarks Steven Hill Executive Secretary, International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law 3 May 2023 – Cairo

Dear All,

I am pleased to share that on the 3rd of May, 2023, the IIJ participated to the 21st GCTF Coordinating Committee Meeting, “Through an African Lens”.  I thank the new GCTF Co-Chairs Egypt and the European Union for the opportunity to participate to this fruitful event. It has been an honour to cooperate with them, as well as the Cairo International Centre for Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding in Africa (CCCPA), to help bring the voices of a number of African practitioners to this event.

The IIJ was founded in Malta in 2014 as one of the GCTF’s three Inspired Institutions. Our mandate is to work with criminal justice practitioners – judges, prosecutors, investigators, police, and others as well as policy makers – to help build their capacity to handle cases involving counter-terrorism in line with the rule of law and human rights. We greatly appreciate the support of GCTF members as we have carried out this mandate for nearly a decade. Our work is non-political, technical, and practitioner-focused. In this regard, we welcome the plan of the Co-Chairs to identify and address the needs of practitioners as part of a revitalized GCTF.

African practitioners have always been at the centre of the IIJ’s work since our founding in Malta in 2014 as one of the three GCTF inspired institutions. I salute the work of criminal justice practitioners from African countries. The response to the evolving terrorist landscape on the African continent must include a strong prosecutorial and judicial element. Criminal justice practitioners in Africa have therefore frequently been called upon to serve as front-line responders in the fight against terrorism. This role is a crucial one. I am confident that a rule-of-law based approach contains the tools necessary to fight terrorism while preserving the values that societies hold dear – ultimately, producing more sustainable and broadly supported outcome that help respond to understandable demands for justice, including by victims.

Yet, this role brings with it daunting challenges, not least, the fact that judicial systems are so frequently under-resourced. Practitioners also often face challenges working with their counterparts in the military and security services, for example, in the transfer of evidence captured on the battlefield to the legal system. Moreover, there are serious challenges involved in the prosecution of crimes related to sexual and gender-based violence. There is much work to be done in the judicial sector to make equality between women and men a reality – not just as a matter of principle, but because, in practice, too, it will yield better results in our courts, police stations, prosecution offices, and elsewhere in the criminal justice chain.

At the IIJ we seek to ground our work in these challenges, in the lived experience of practitioners. Our Malta-based team includes a former chief prosecutor from Niger, as well as colleagues from other African countries. Of course, we also value and remain in regular touch with our network of over 8000 alumni – you. I was thrilled that we had the opportunity to hear from several of them at the CoCo Meeting.

We employ a peer-to-peer approach in our capacity building work. This means making extra efforts in designing, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating programmes to ensure that they are responsive to the needs of practitioners. Thanks to the support of our donors, we have been able to invest more in needs assessments. We recently conducted two such needs assessments for Malawi and Niger. As part of our recently-launched European Union-funded Counterterrorism Platform for Human Rights Engagement (CT PHARE) project, we will soon launch a survey aimed at identifying needs related to fair trial standards as reflected in the relevant GCTF documents. This survey is part of the work of the GCTF’s Criminal Justice and Rule of Law (CJ-ROL) Working Group.

Being responsive to needs also requires cooperation with all entities that are working in this space: the other Inspired Institutions, the United Nations systems, national assistance work, civil society, and others. One of my priorities since taking on the role of IIJ Executive Secretary has been to strengthen cooperation with all of these stakeholders. The IIJ’s work’s emphasis is on the implementation of the GCTF documents and Good Practices Guides. These documents feature prominently in IIJ courses, workshops, and other activities. We look forward to implementing the perspectives expressed at the CoCo event to generate ideas of how to continue this practical implementation, in a way that is most responsive the needs of African practitioners. GCTF members can count on the IIJ to continue to support this important focus.

Opening Remarks by Steven Hill REMVE: Radicalisation in the Ranks


As part of our Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremism (REMVE) initiative, we hosted in Malta a roundtable focused on radicalisation within the security services’ ranks. This constitutes an important element of our efforts to develop the first-ever guide for criminal justice practitioners to counter REMVE, which we launched almost two years ago.

Ian Moss, Steven Hill and Gail Malone.

The event is personally important to me, due to my previous assignments at the U.S. National Security Council and NATO, and I am glad that we had an incredible group of experts joining us. Our participants included practitioners, policymakers, as well as non-governmental experts. The presence and commitment of our guest participants is a testament to the importance of the topic and the determination of everyone involved in making a difference.

As a nonpartisan multinational organisation, the IIJ is a platform for discussion that encourages intercultural dialogue in the development of capacity-building of criminal justice practitioners respecting Human Rights and the Rule of Law. With 13 Board Members and 30 staff members, we are a relatively small but highly dynamic institution. We have received funding from a wide range of donors – including the US, UK, Germany, Australia, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Italy, Canada, the EU, and now Kuwait – and our mission has always been to bring criminal justice and security professionals together on topics related to how to fight terrorism in line with human rights and the rule of law.

We offer a wide range of both foundational courses and more advanced workshops. We also offer programs that lend strategic support and assist in policy development. Further, in a growing set of disciplines, including battlefield evidence and REMVE, we use our convening authority and subject matter expertise to sponsor forums for expert exchange, such as this one.

The REMVE has been a core IIJ topic for over three years. We started work on the initiative in 2019 with series of expert group meetings, and, in 2020 and 2021, we conducted trends analysis to explore the rapidly changing landscape and identify the most pressing topics. In 2021, we also launched and distributed a REMVE Practitioners Guide, which is now available in six languages. Since then, we have held a series of tailored technical programs to analyse specific, emerging and complex threats and vulnerabilities.

In October 2022, we organised a programme in London, where we gathered researchers, academics, criminal justice practitioners, tech experts, and policy makers. The programme focused on online radicalisation, particular vulnerability of youth as a class, and links between radicalisation and specific subsets of youth, including the neurodiverse. Each REMVE programme aims to advance our collective understanding of the rapidly evolving radicalisation landscape as well as to identify tools to help address it.

What legal and institutional frameworks are in place for the protection of participants in terrorist trials? The examples of Burkina Faso, Niger and Senegal

The Sahel is plagued by unprecedented transnational organised crime and an upsurge in terrorist organisations.  Indeed, more than a decade after the attacks of 11 September 2001, the terrorist threat has never been more severe.

In discussing the present topic — the legal and institutional frameworks for the protection of victims and witnesses in terrorism investigations — the examples of Burkina Faso, Niger and Senegal are instructive.

From a legal perspective, the fight against terrorism has required amendment and adaptation of domestic legislation in these three States.  Accordingly, Burkina Faso, Niger and Senegal amended their penal codes. The counter-terrorism measures introduced in these codes require changes to the criminal procedure to improve the effectiveness of these legal measures more. Consequently, it was necessary to define new rules derogating from the ordinary law of criminal procedure.

At the institutional level, crimes of terrorism have made it necessary to adapt the governmental structures which were intended to address the problem. Indeed, an institutional response is required to combat this phenomenon, which the traditional rules of criminal law have not effectively and comprehensively managed. The complexity and specificity of the offences concerned, namely acts of terrorism and transnational organised crime (TOC), require that they be dealt with by specialised judges, prosecutors and law enforcement agencies. Further, for reasons of efficiency, prosecutions must be centralised to avoid duplication of efforts and resources.  The unique combination of these conditions prompted the establishment of the specialized courts, prosecutors and investigators in the fight against terrorism in these countries.

Despite their importance, these legal and institutional reforms have left theorists and legal practitioners, and particularly those involved in the fight against terrorism in these countries, indifferent.  This suggests a lack of attention to the issue(s)/dilemma.

This article aims to strengthen the protection of victims and witnesses in terrorism cases in the Sahel while respecting human rights. Indeed, in several ways, respect for human rights is at the heart of the debate in the fight against terrorism.  Some actors in government perceive respect for human rights as a threat to the effectiveness of counter-terrorism measures, while others view it as essential to the effectiveness of these measures.  The relevance of this debate, which reflects gaps on both institutional and legal levels, was noted regarding the protection of witnesses and victims who provide information about individuals and organizations involved in terrorism.

This article analyses the legal and institutional framework for the protection of those involved in terrorist cases in the Sahel, particularly in Burkina Faso, Niger and Senegal. It is hoped that this article may enhance the effectiveness of victim and witness protection measures in those Sahel countries by identifying gaps and implementing the proposed recommendations. It is suggested that these States explore the idea of setting up a state fund to ensure the availability of resources to support these victims and witnesses.   

Furthermore, this analysis will attempt to dispel the notion that respect for human rights is an obstacle to the effectiveness of counter-terrorism measures in the Sahel.  Rather, respect for human rights and the rule of law are the key elements of effective counter-terrorism measures and are tools to be used to implement criminal justice measures.  

Indeed, investigating and adjudicating terrorism cases while respecting the principles and guarantees of the rule of law has, more than ever, become a challenge for the judiciary and democratic societies. This article attempts to address this tension by adopting an interdisciplinary perspective.

Aimed at both legal practitioners and academics, it is hoped that this first article will provide solutions to the main questions raised by the criminal justice dimension of the fight against terrorism in the Sahel.

Download the full article here.

This article was written by IIJ Alumni:

Mamane Lawal Barry MAMADOU, Director of the Protection of Rights and Sanctions at the High Authority for the Protection of Personal Data (HAPDP), Niamey (NIGER)

Tondjoa SAGNAN, Prosecutor at the Tribunal of Ziniare (BURKINA FASO)

Djibril Abdou MOUSSA, President of the Tribunal of Instance of Kollo and former Examining Judge at the High Court of Agadez (NIGER)

Paul DAMIBA, Counsellor at the Administrative Court of Appeal of Ouagadougou and former President / Examining Judge, High Court of Djibo (BURKINA FASO)

Doudou Cissé DIOUF, Deputy General at the Court of Appeal of Dakar and former Prosecutor, Court of Dakar (SENEGAL)

Meeting and exchanges between actors in the fight against terrorism in Niger: Army and civilian populations, two key actors in the heart of the criminal chain

For almost a decade the Sahel has been fighting terrorism. This phenomenon, which was initially located mainly in Mali, has gradually spread to the rest of the region, affecting countries such as Niger, Burkina Faso, and Chad.  Today, terrorism is present in the countries of the Gulf of Guinea such as Benin, Togo, Ghana and even the Ivory Coast.

On the ground, the fight is waged on several fronts: On the military front, on the judicial front, through development actions, awareness raising missions etc.

At the judicial level, the treatment provided by traditional actors such as investigators, prosecutors and judges grouped together within the criminal chain has revealed a major shortcoming which is at the origin of a situation of exacerbation of frustrations, violent extremism, and radicalisation, which constitute a ferment of recruitment for terrorist groups [1].

This gap? It is the gap that has been created and is widening every day between 3 key actors in this fight.  On the one hand, the judicial system, which operates on the basis of rules of evidence regularly collected, reported and discussed in a fair trial; on the other hand, the army in the front line, which is used to fighting independence movements, is trying to contain this new phenomenon which appears to be a hydra; and, finally, the civilian population, for whom this fight is supposed to be conducted and who find themselves caught between two fires: On the one hand, the terrorist groups who try to win their hearts and minds by resorting to threats, assassinations and kidnappings, and on the other hand, the defence and security forces who consider these civilian populations as accomplices of the terrorists and treat them as such.

In Niger, this situation has led to mass arrests and detentions in deplorable conditions of people suspected of belonging to terrorist groups.  However, the first hearings of the specialised court [2], which began in earnest in March 2017, revealed a very low rate of convictions. Indeed, only 10 per cent of the defendants were convicted and sentenced for terrorism-related offences. The other 90 per cent were released after several months or even years in detention.  The judicial fight against terrorism then became mired in contradictions and inextricable reproaches. The misunderstood judicial system regularly received stone-throwing on the one hand from a population disappointed with its excessive delays and its groping, and on the other from the army, tempted to sink into the practices of summary executions that it observed elsewhere, in the face of a judicial system that it considered to be failing and even complacent.

To prevent the fight from getting bogged down, the judicial system designed and implemented a form for use by the army at each arrest, which constituted a first level of analysis of the facts. This form provides information on the author of the arrest, the person involved, the circumstances of the arrest, the objects found on the person, etc. [3]

Even if it is true that this sheet did not resolve all the difficulties raised, it had the advantage of allowing, for the first time, the investigators and the army, actors who have always observed each other from a distance, to finally be able to communicate on a technical, operational and precise basis.

The first positive impacts recorded have convinced us of the need to continue this dialogue through open and quasi-regular meetings between the judicial system, the army and by adding the civilian population, with the intermediation of the High Authority for Peacebuilding (HACP) [4], whose role is to strengthen peace and social cohesion.  The first meetings showed how wide the gap was, particularly between the judiciary and the army, the latter not understanding the relevance of the latter’s involvement in the fight against terrorism. The recurrence of these meetings and, above all, the commitment shown by the authorities through the HACP gradually helped to ease the atmosphere, to restore serenity and to promote discussions on the substance. These meetings have become real frameworks for exchanges and above all for training where all subjects are tackled, including these essential themes for a good administration of justice:

  • respect for the basic rules for gathering evidence
  • respect for the rights of suspects and the rule of law,
  • the necessary but measured involvement of local populations, in particular traditional chiefs and opinion leaders,
  • Better coordination between specialized services and the primary actors who are local.

These meetings have undoubtedly led to the first drastic reductions in the number of people arrested and detained for belonging to terrorist movements. At the same time, the better prepared judicial procedures gradually increased the rate of convictions from 10% to nearly 65% in a very short time.

Obviously, all these efforts have made it possible to deal with conjectural situations.  It is therefore up to the Nigerien justice system, to be more efficient and, taking advantage of the existence of this relaxed framework of exchanges, to move towards proactive investigations for effective prosecutions. That is one of the pillars of the training provided for the past two years to law practitioners by the Academic Unit of the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (IIJ), an institution inspired by the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum.

Samna Cheibou, Resident Fellow, Academic Unit, April 2022.

Keywords: Army, civil society, Niger, Rabat Memorandum.

Download the full article here.

Télécharger l’article en français.

[1] In March 2017, Niamey’s prisons totalled nearly 1,700 people suspected of complicity with terrorist groups Source. Office of the Public Prosecutor

[2] ord. N°2011-12 of 27 January 2011JOSP n° 03 of 11 March 2011 see THE FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM IN NIGER. LES APPROCHES JURIDIQUES by Zeinabou Abdou Hassane,de%20r%C3%A9pression%20d’actes%20terroristes

[3] ”When the dust settles, justice in the face of terrorism in the Sahel, Junko Nozawa and Melissa Lefas, October 2018 editor, Global center on cooperative Security  See the article titled THE COORDINATION BETWEEN MILITARY ACTION AND JUDICIAL ACTION article by Mr Hassane Djibo magistrate of exceptional rank page 25 and following.

[4] Institution under the Presidency of the Republic, created by Decree No. 2011/217/PRN of 26 July 2011 to replace the High Commission for the Restoration of Peace (HCRP) created in 1994 during the successive rebellions that the country has experienced.

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