Conversation with Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer

On the occasion of our 10th Anniversary, our Executive Secretary Steven Hill was honoured to have a conversation with Justice Stephen Breyer.


Stephen Breyer served 28 years as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States, where he was widely regarded as a brilliant, careful, and analytical judge, a consensus builder, a guardian of individual rights, and a fierce protector of a nonpartisan, nonpoliticized judiciary. During his tenure, he was described as the court’s resident intellectual, an optimist with an abiding commitment to social justice and the fundamental role of the judiciary in pursuing it.


He was also one of the court’s most internationally focused judges and not only travelled widely and exchanged frequently with colleagues on other courts around the world, but in 2015 published a book on the importance of understanding how judges in other systems make law and decide cases, especially as the court resolved cases with global implications.


Justice Breyer’s conversation with IIJ Executive Secretary Steven Hill was presented as the keynote address at the February 2024 IIJ 10th Anniversary Symposium entitled “Does the Rule of Law Really Matter to Global Security?” His deep insights and historical references will continue to inspire the IIJ community into its second decade of rule of law programming.

Germany joins the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law’s (IIJ) Governing Board of Administrators

Germany joins the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law’s (IIJ) Governing Board of Administrators, becoming the 14th member state of the board.


During the last Governing Board of Administrator’s meeting on the 6th of November, the IIJ’s board voted in favor of Germany’s request to join the board.

This step comes after years of collaboration between the IIJ and Germany and Germany’s steadfast financial support to the IIJ as a donor as well as with expertise in IIJ Programmes.

The latest joint project was a few weeks ago in Abidjan where the IIJ conducted the third in a series of workshops on Mitigating Risks Associated with Abuse of Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions (DNFBPs) for Terrorist Financing Purposes in West Africa. The event, which reconvened the same cohort from two previous programs to maximize progressive expertise building and networking as well as brought in new participants, provided support in building knowledge and skills on preventing, identifying and disrupting illegal activities involving DNFBPs that contribute to financing of terrorist groups in the region.

We are looking forward to working, hand in hand, with Germany on several projects. The IIJ strives to reinforce its ability to further promote justice, the rule of law and human rights.

Press Release: Enabling the Safe Return of Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs) and Associated Family Members from Northeast Syria – UNGA 78

Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Richard R. Verma, United States, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, Republic of Iraq, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Fionnuala D. Ní Aoláin, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Ted Chaiban, and other distinguished experts and government representatives will highlight the ongoing humanitarian and security crisis in the detention facilities and at al-Hol and Roj displaced persons camps in northeast Syria.

This United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 78) side event is hosted by the United States Department of State, in partnership with the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (IIJ)

Westin Grand Central Hotel on September 20, 3:30 pm

Open press and on the record remarks 3:30-4:15pm

Limited seats and pooling available for Press

Zoom Webinar also available: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/85628882149

New York, NY, USA: The side event will address the important security and humanitarian implications of ISIS detention facilities and al-Hol and Roj displaced persons camps from those displaced after the 2019 territorial defeat of ISIS in northeast Syria. Countries will discuss solutions to the challenges to repatriation and returns, as well as rehabilitation, reintegration, and where applicable, prosecution.

Some quotes:

At the June Defeat-ISIS Coalition Ministerial in Riyadh, Secretary Blinken underscored that the status quo in northeast Syria is “unsustainable” and urged countries to take a more active role in addressing the dire humanitarian, human rights, and security conditions in al-Hol and Roj camps and SDF detention centers through repatriations and stabilization support in communities of return.

 Blinken: Islamic State Fight ‘Not Yet Done’ (voanews.com)

In a fireside chat in April, Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the U.S. Department of State Ian Moss highlighted the security concerns of the detained fighters: “Ten thousand ISIS fighters remain in custody there, which is the largest concentration of detained terrorists anywhere in the world.  ISIS continues to look for new opportunities to replenish its ranks by trying to free these detained fighters.  If they escape, they will pose a threat not only to northeast Syria and the region but to our homelands.”

Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism Ian Moss Fireside Chat with Matthew Levitt | StateNewswire (bingj.com)

After her six-day visit to northeast Syria, UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights Fionnuala D.Ní Aoláin said, “We cannot hold 10,000 people in a box where no one sees what happens to them and their children, it is fundamentally unacceptable by any measure of a civilised and humane treatment of persons in a condition of detention.

Children forcibly separated from mothers at Syria’s Al Hol, warns top rights expert | UN News

“It is crucial to enhance mutual understanding of the challenges associated with prosecuting repatriated nationals from northeast Syria. Further international dialogue can help provide opportunities to learn from countries that have successfully prosecuted nationals they have repatriated, giving those considering repatriation and those continuing to repatriate nationals the tools and contacts they need to do so successfully.”

The IIJ Executive Secretary, Steven Hill, following the last FTF Event organized by the IIJ in Malta, May 2023.

Additional Material For Press:

Between 2011 and 2019, tens of thousands of people left more than 60 countries to fight for the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  Today, approximately 2,000 ISIS foreign fighters remain in detention facilities operated by the non-state Syrian Democratic Forces in northeast Syria. The situation presents significant national security and humanitarian concerns that threaten regional and global security.

The United States seeks to mitigate threats posed by detained ISIS fighters to prevent an ISIS resurgence.  To date, the United States has facilitated dozens of repatriation operations of detained fighters and associated family members from northeast Syria (NES) to their countries of origin and provided technical advice and assistance to many countries investigating, prosecuting, incarcerating, rehabilitating, and reintegrating their nationals.  

At the al–Hol camp, roughly 50% of residents are under 12 years of age.  Unless action is taken, they will continue to suffer hardship.  Displaced persons, particularly children, require basic life support services and advanced psychosocial support, which cannot be effectively provided in NES.

The situation in NES presents severe humanitarian and local, regional, and international security concerns. Conditions in the camps limit the provision of humanitarian aid and political dynamics in northeast Syria make it challenging for countries to visit and to repatriate their nationals.  The United States supports efforts to encourage and facilitate repatriations of fighters and associated family members from NES. The United States’ position is that repatriations are the most durable solution to the ongoing security and humanitarian crisis in NES and encourages countries of origin to repatriate, rehabilitate, reintegrate, and prosecute where appropriate, FTFs and associated family members.

Rehabilitating and reintegrating those who return to their countries of origin from Syria – whether or not they serve prison time – is vital to addressing the cycles of violence and radicalization to violence by ISIS.   From Morocco to Indonesia, the United States supports programs that reduce the likelihood that people who return from northeast Syria will continue to support terrorism.  The United States also lends its expertise to interested countries of origin in the development of good practices for effective rehabilitation and reintegration of FTFs and associated family members.  The United States supports the inclusion of language in counterterrorism-related UN resolutions that recognize the need for UN Member States to develop effective strategies to deal with returnees. 

The risk of an ISIS resurgence in NES far outweighs the risks posed by FTFs and associated family members once repatriated.   Recognizing this, the United States will continue to offer support to countries of origin to effectively manage their repatriation efforts. As Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism Ian Moss said, “We cannot ignore our way out of this problem.  We must continue to leverage our counterterrorism cooperation to repatriate the remaining foreign fighters while also mitigating the risks.” 

One of the IIJ’s main initiatives is The Returning Foreign Terrorist Fighters (RFTFs) Initiative, which works with policy-makers and practitioners at the local and national levels to adopt and implement coherent policies that foster an inter-agency approach to the rehabilitation and reintegration of terrorist fighters. The initiative helps implement the GCTF’s “Hague-Marrakech Memorandum on Good Practices for a More Effective Response to the FTF Phenomenon,” as well as UN Security Council Resolution 2178.

Although launched in 2015 to focus on FTFs, those combatants who came from other countries to fight, the project pivoted in response to the evolution of the global threat, shifting to focus on returning FTFs, or those fighters who returned from conflict zones to their home countries. Under this Initiative, with support from the Government of the Netherlands, the IIJ spearheaded an important multi-phased program to assist the Governments of Chad and Mali in adapting the Hague-Marrakech Memorandum to their national security contexts. Other projects under this Initiative have supported actions in relevant UN Security Council Resolutions and implementation of the GCTF’s “Good Practices on Addressing the Challenge of Returning Families of Foreign Terrorist Fighters.” The IIJ concluded its work with Chad and Mali and remains committed to assisting both countries in their efforts to include rehabilitation and reintegration programs for terrorist fighters in their national CVE strategies.

Visual identity:

Press Contacts:

Ali Khair

Communication and Outreach Manager, IIJ: khaira@theiij.org

Parvina Abduvohobova

Programme Manager, IIJ: abduvohobovap@theiij.org

UN CT Week: Message from the IIJ Executive Secretary

Dear Alumni.

I wanted to send you a personal message. I’m traveling to the United Nations headquarters in New York to represent the IIJ in a number of key meetings during which I will have the opportunity to speak about the excellent work that IIJ and especially you – the talented alumni of the IIJ — have been doing. Among other meetings with UN officials and officials from UN Member States.

I will attend the Third United Nations High-level Conference of Heads of Counter-Terrorism Agencies of Member States. This conference kicks off an entire week of side events and other meetings referred to as “UN CT Week.”

Here’s an opportunity for you: many of the side events during UN CT Week can be attended online. I would encourage you to do so. Much like our IIJ alumni events, these side events are great opportunities to share in the global conversation on crucial issues of interest to practitioners.

As mentioned, I look forward to using the unique opportunities during this trip to put the spotlight on the excellent work you have all been doing at the IIJ. I hope that we’ll have more opportunities in the months to come to reflect on the special community that we are building together with you as IIJ alumni. I am very proud of everything that you have done and continue to do.

Please keep in touch.

Steven Hill

MOC between the IIJ and UNAFEI

Our Executive Secretary, Mr. Steven Hill signed, in Vienna, a Memorandum of Cooperation between the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law and the United Nations Asia and Far East Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (UNAFEI).


With this memorandum, we express our commitment to establishing a mutually beneficial working relationship with the UNAFEI, involving cooperation and exchange of information and expertise aimed at providing continuous education and training programmes on criminal justice.


The UNAFEI was established with the aim of promoting the sound development of criminal justice systems and mutual cooperation, primarily in the Asia and Pacific Regions. The activities of UNAFEI focus on training courses and seminars for personnel in crime prevention and criminal justice administration, and the research and study of crime prevention and the treatment of offenders.


Given the overlap between several of our guiding principles, and the scope of our activities, our cooperation promises to provide both institutions with a more extensive network of expertise pertinent to our aligning missions, resulting in overall enhanced capacity-building activities for both Parties.
We endeavour to increase information exchange, collaborate in identifying, collecting and disseminating best practices, lessons learned, and research findings expertise to strengthen the rule of law-based criminal justices’ responses to countering transnational threats and challenges including but not limited to terrorism and violent extremism, and we will explore opportunities for joint research activities on topics of mutual interest.


We welcome UNAFEI to attend workshops, meetings, conferences, and other events that we organise which are relevant to the subject matter of this MoC, and we will explore opportunities to jointly convene workshops, conferences or other meetings on topics and mutually-agreed issues.


We continue to recognise the importance and necessity of international collaboration to identify and address trends, needs and gaps ensuring the effective and efficient delivery of sustainable, impactful and practical capacity-building assistance in criminal justice, and the present Memorandum of Cooperation with the UNAFEI is yet another step towards the critical goal of enhanced international collaboration in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice.

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