International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law
I would like to thank UNODC, UNOCT, IOM and Germany for inviting me to take part in this important discussion regarding the Integrated Border Stability Mechanism (IBSM) for West Africa. Like all of you gathered here, the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law, or IIJ, is committed to advancing the rule of law, justice, security, and human rights in the context of countering terrorism and transnational organized crime, with particular focus on the countries of West Africa. Border security and stability are integral to all the work we collectively do.
First, a bit of background. The IIJ was established in 2014 and one of three institutions inspired by the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF). Some of our 12 founding members and the European Union are present today, as well as many GCTF members and active supporters and partners of the IIJ, including Japan.
Our mandate is to provide rule of law-based training to lawmakers, police, prosecutors, judges, corrections officials, and other justice sector stakeholders on how to address terrorism and related transnational organized crime. The IIJ also works to strengthen criminal justice systems and build regional judicial, police and other criminal justice practitioner networks to promote justice, security and human rights.
Our work is non-political, technical, practitioner-focused, and based on a peer-to-peer approach. We have a committed 30-person team, from 20 different nationalities, with a range of senior criminal justice practitioners from countries across the globe. From its inception in 2014, in addition to Middle East and Southeast Asia, the IIJ has focused a substantial portion of its work in Africa and especially West Africa, establishing long-lasting partnerships with practitioners and other organizations – including IOM, UNODC and UNOCT — to support effective criminal justice responses to terrorism. Though border security has never been the singular focus of any of our wide range of programs, nearly all of the work we do impacts, and is impacted, by strong border security. Thank you for the opportunity to explain how.
Let me start with a basic precept that brings us all together today: terrorism is a uniquely cross-border phenomenon — the way fighters are recruited, terrorist groups are structured, supplies are furnished, funds are raised, attacks are committed against victims from various nationalities and propaganda is shared is almost inherently transnational. This necessarily means that the way criminal justice practitioners combat terrorism must be equally transversal — how evidence is gathered and shared, cases built, witnesses and victims identified and protected, and defendants found and held accountable. This is exactly how the IIJ contributes to the fight against terrorism – by equipping practitioners with the skills to investigate and prosecute cases with international dimensions.
Let me give you some examples.
Since it was created in 2020, our Academic Unit has offered intensive HR and RoL based core courses Counter Terrorism Academic Curriculum (in French, programme de perfectionnement Contre- terrorisme : Approfondissement des compétences, CTAC).
These tailored, intensive and subregional courses are focusing on counter-terrorism investigative skills for selected women and men,mid-level to senior practitioners, reinforcing the skills essential to holding terrorists accountable. Integral to these curricula is collaborative and inter-agency approach, coordination at a national basis (from capitals to borders) to strengthen cross-border cooperation (police-to-police, justice-to-justice) and the effective use of cross border instruments and platforms (including G5 Sahel, Interpol for instance) at every relevant stage of a case, whether collecting evidence, victims or suspects. This is also a way to develop subregional dynamic professional networks within our Alumni, to facilitate cooperation across boarders in due respect of State sovereignty.
We have now offered the CTAC course, and its online eCTAC component, to practitioners from up to12 countries in West Africa and Sahel in their working language (Arabic, English or French). More broadly, we are currently working with 23 countries in North, East, Central, and West Africa. We have just Monday launched our first ever CTAC for West African Francophone trial judges , alongside another iteration of our CTAC for prosecutors and investigative judges from West Africa.
As an institution, through our own activities, via our internal expertise as well as within our alumni network, we also actively participate in various fora with partners to strengthen some key points mentioned during this inaugural meeting, such as last June the fight against proliferation and use of weapons, ammunitions and IEDs during the last (GCTF) West Africa Working Group Meeting in Togo or to promote cooperative platforms during the Twelfth plenary meeting of the West African Central Authorities and Prosecutors’ Network (WACAP) held in Banjul (Gambia).
Our Monitoring and evaluation assessments show that all these skills and knowledge are transferable in various transnational issues such as arms smuggling, drugs trafficking or human trafficking and are, as I mentioned earlier, directly linked to strengthening cooperative border governance and security in areas strategically relevant for regional stability for neighbouring countries.
Our Programmatic Unit builds upon and expands these skills with a wide range of programs that address both foundational competencies common to all CT investigations, as well as specific aspects of the fight against terrorism. For instance, we have a lengthy history of working with practitioners on mutual legal assistance, helping to improve the way evidence is shared across international borders. This includes the expertise to determine when evidence from another country is important to a case, and the skills necessary to make the full range of informal, law-enforcement-to-law-enforcement and diplomatic requests for that evidence.
But our work on MLA goes way beyond that. We’ve drafted guiding principles on how to establish a central authority, which is the national mechanism to manage international evidence exchange, and have run a series of regional programs to disseminate it. By way of examplse from other sub-regions of Africa, we’ve recently offered a program for Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi to improve how they address shared security problems along their common borders. We helped Senegal draft the first wholesale revision of its MLA law since 1971. And we’re actively helping Somalia develop its first ever domestic legislation to create a mechanism for MLA and extradition. What could be more central to strong border stability than a plan for addressing shared cross-border challenges and a rule-of-law based mechanism for exchanging evidence to hold wrong-doers accountable?
As I mentioned, we also offer a wide range of programming on specific aspects of terrorism, always raising awareness of, and building skills to effectively investigate and prosecute, the cross-border dimensions. For example, we’ve run a very well-received series of programs on sexual violence as a weapon of terrorism, the very first of which was in Burkina Faso in partnership with the Ministry of Gender. This initiative looks at how terrorist organizations use sexual violence as a strategic tool to recruit fighters, humiliate and condition resistors, destabilize communities, and spawn the next generation of fighters.
But it also focuses on the junction of sexual violence and human trafficking, whereby terrorist groups sell a portion of their sexual violence victims across borders to raise funds for terrorist operations. Raising practitioner awareness of these operating tactics, reinforcing their ability to detect and stop cross-border human trafficking of sexual violence victims and others, and equipping them with the tools to hold wrong-doers responsible directly impacts regional border security.
Over the last two years, the IIJ has also launched a new initiative to combat the financing of terrorism. Rather than duplicating introductory programming that others have already offered, we’ve dived right into the details, working with countries in West Africa to address deficiencies noted in their FATF audits. This has included, most notably, a series of sub-regional workshops in Cote d’Ivoire on how terrorist organizations exploit cash-rich businesses and the non-profit sector to launder funds and finance their operations.
For money laundering to be successful, dirty funds must move from where they are raised, through legitimate operations, to where they are needed. In the terrorism context, this almost always involves transport of laundered funds across international boundaries, often physically through bulk cash smuggling. IIJ programs bring together investigators and prosecutors, regulatory officials, regional financial bodies like the Egmont Group, and private sector to understand these criminal trends, discuss shared challenges and find practical solutions. Because the more they collectively understand how money is made, laundered and moved, the better they can protect businesses and non-profits from exploitation and detect abuse when they see it. And criminal justice practitioners who have the capacity to build terrorist finance cases based on illegal movement of funds have a direct impact on the amount of dirty money that moves across borders.
Finally, I would like to highlight also The Counter-Terrorism Platform for Human Rights Engagement (CT PHARE), a new global facility funded by the European Union’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI), which of course includes West Africa. CT PHARE’s objective is to increase the degree to which states’ counter-terrorism policies, legislation, day-today investigation, prosecution and judicial strategies comply with European and internationally recognised human rights standards which contribute to the collaborative approach with our partners. This is also a way to support African Union and ISBSM objective on this positive potential of borders “as vectors to promote peace, security, and stability, and to improve and accelerate integration through effective governance of borders while facilitating easy movement of people, goods, services and capital among AU Member States”.
This is just a sampling of the types of programs the IIJ offers; I haven’t mentioned, for instance, our significant work on juvenile justice in the context of terrorism, collection and use of battlefield evidence, and an ever-expanding range of other topics linked to the fight against terrorism. I hope this helps illustrate, however, how IIJ programming helps reinforce the integrated safety net at West Africa’s borders by training professionals to understand, investigate and prosecute terrorism and other cross-border crime. The IIJ is supportive of the Integrated Border Stability Mechanism for West Africa launched today to further improve international coordination and collaboration for enhanced integrated border management capacity development in West Africa, including through our dynamic IIJ Alumni network. On behalf of the entire team at the IIJ, I commend you all on your efforts to improve border safety and stability in the region, and re-iterate our commitment to working with you all as part of long-term regional solutions.