Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Mr. Evgeniy Zagaynov at the UN Security Council on foreign terrorist fighters
The situation today makes it vital for us to exchange opinions and assessments of the contemporary threats posed by the activities of terrorist groups.
We would like to thank the Under-Secretary-General Voronkov, of the United Nations Office of CounterTerrorism, and Ambassador Umarov, Chair of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) concerning the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities, for their briefings.
We also thank Ms. Coninsx, the Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, and congratulate her on her maiden briefing to the Security Council.
An unprecedented number of radicals high on terrorist ideology, including many residents of extremely affluent States, have set out for the areas of conflict in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and other parts of the world. They return home or relocate to other countries in search of so-called safe havens on the assumption that they will not be held accountable.
In that regard, it is essential that States fulfil their obligations with regard to countering foreign terrorist fighters strictly and rigorously. Three years ago, in addition to its already extensive counter-terrorism toolkit, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2178 (2014) on this specific issue. The decision had wide support from the States Members of the United Nations.
Nonetheless, when it came to implementing it, it turned out that many States do not get around to improving their counter-terrorism systems until there is a flare-up on their own territory. A good example of that has been the commitment to criminalizing various aspects of foreign terrorist fighter activities laid out in paragraph 6 of resolution 2178 (2014).
As the results of the Counter-Terrorism Committee’s monitoring have shown, in a number of cases neither the process of formulating legal bans on travelling abroad with the intention of committing an act of terror, or on giving any kind of assistance to foreign terrorist fighters, has even begun.
Furthermore, terrorist crimes as such have not actually been outlawed everywhere. It would be naive to think that terrorists leaving Syria and Iraq en masse have not noticed such loopholes. There are also gaps in the area of international counterterrorism cooperation.
The legal assistance and extradition mechanisms effectively almost cease to function, frequently becoming hostages to bureaucracy, not to mention to attempts to politicize them. There are also serious difficulties linked to tracking terrorists’ movements across borders, in many cases compounded by the fact that the borders themselves are porous.
Besides that, the scope of the information about foreign terrorist fighters that States exchange, bilaterally and multilaterally, does not measure up tothat of the current threat.
That is not because the right mechanisms do not exist. INTERPOL has advanced systems. The International Counter-Terrorism Database, founded in Russia, is gaining traction and provides the greatest possible flexibility for posting and using information. In such circumstances, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the effectiveness of efforts in this area depends first and foremost on whether there is a genuine desire to cooperate.
We must maintain a comprehensive approach to dealing with the issue of foreign terrorist fighters returning from conflict zones. It is crucial to ensure that they are held criminally responsible. The principles whereby punishment will be assured and also commensurate with the crime should be the foundation of these efforts.
We can and should use the reintegration and rehabilitation of terrorists as tools in this, but within the framework of the penal system. In our view, it is pointless to see rehabilitation programmes as some kind of alternative to criminal prosecution.
As for the practice of qualifying terrorists by categorizing them as violent extremists, that could lead to the possibility of terrorists generally, and foreign terrorist fighters in particular, avoiding criminal responsibility, among other things, and could ultimately increase the terrorist threat.
Right now, it is also especially important to ensure that foreign terrorist fighters come under the remit of the counter-terrorism sanctions regime for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and Al-Qaida.
That raises questions about some countries’ reluctance to agree to Russia’s request to the Sanctions Committee for listing two individuals who have participated in those terrorist organizations’ activities. That kind of apparently politicized approach undermines the Committee’s effectiveness.
The fight against the terrorists who flocked to the conflict zones in the Middle East and North Africa is coming to an end, and it is the Russian aerospace forces’ successful operation in Syria that has been the key contribution to that effort. Nonetheless, we cannot fight terrorism by military means alone.
My country has initiated more than 2,000 criminal proceedings related to the issue of foreign terrorist fighters and has succeeded in identifying 112 agents who purposely recruited new members for terrorist organizations. We are taking every possible step to ensure that the requirements of resolution 2138 (2014) are fully implemented.
At the same time, the challenges of today mean that we have to continually improve our anti-terrorism and anti-extremism legislation.
Recent updates of Russia’s anti-terrorism laws have touched on issues related to disseminating extremist materials and inciting people to terrorism through the Internet, and committing crimes in situations of armed conflict. In formulating such changes to the law we analysed the most up-todate world practices.
One of our priorities is combating terrorist ideology, and we are actively involved in producing anti-terrorist propaganda.
We distributed more than 79,000 messages with counter-terrorism content in Russia in 2016 alone and blocked more than 37,000 Internet sources that contained terrorist or extremist materials. We believe that it is essential to develop active cooperation in this area based on the principle of the State and the private sector’s mutual responsibility.
In conclusion, we would like to emphasize that, given our experience in counter-terrorism, our delegation stands ready to continue working substantively to improve the Security Council’s counterterrorism tools and the mechanisms for monitoring their implementation.