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.