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Counter-Terrorism

Expected Council Action

The Council is expected to hold two briefings on counter-terrorism in September.

Early in the month, the Chair of the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), Ambassador Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta (Egypt), and the Secretary General of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Fang Liu, will brief the Council on security in civil aviation, in accordance with resolution 2309. The Council may adopt a presidential statement on the issue. 

The head of the newly-created UN Office of Counter-Terrorism , Under-Secretary-General Vladimir Voronkov, will brief the Council for the first time in late September. The newly-appointed Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED), Michèle Coninsx (Belgium), is also likely to brief the Council.

Background to ICAO Briefing

ICAO was created as a specialised agency of the UN to promote the safe and orderly development of international civil aviation. The Council has recognised the importance of ICAO for the implementation of Council resolutions, particularly with respect to sanctions. For example, in resolution 1617 of 29 July 2005, the Council welcomed the efforts of ICAO to prevent travel documents from being made available to Al-Qaida terrorists and their associates.

The interplay between civil aviation security and sanctions is also reflected in other Council resolutions. For example, resolution 2178 of 24 September 2014 on the threat of foreign terrorist fighters calls on member states to require that airlines operating in their territories provide advance passenger information to the appropriate national authorities to detect the transit, by means of civil aircraft, of individuals on the 1267/1989/2253 Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) (Da’esh) & Al-Qaida Sanctions List and share this information in accordance with international obligations.

On the initiative of New Zealand, the Council held a ministerial-level meeting on the terrorist threat to civil aviation on 22 September 2016, during which it was briefed by Liu. At the meeting, the Council adopted resolution 2309, which called on member states to work within ICAO to ensure that its international security standards are reviewed, adapted and implemented to effectively address this threat. The resolution further encouraged continued cooperation between ICAO, the CTC and the CTED on identifying gaps and vulnerabilities relevant to aviation security, and welcomed the cooperation between ICAO and the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force to facilitate the delivery of technical assistance and capacity-building in the field of aviation security. It also requested the CTC to hold a meeting within 12 months, in cooperation with ICAO, on the issue of terrorist threats to civil aviation and invited the Secretary General of ICAO and the Chair of the CTC to brief the Council on the outcomes of this meeting.

Key Recent Developments

The Council unanimously adopted resolution 2368 on 20 July renewing and updating the 1267/1989/2253 sanctions regime concerning ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida, and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities. The updates are intended to better reflect the current and evolving threat presented by Al-Qaida and ISIL. They focus on addressing in particular foreign terrorist fighters returning to their countries of origin; trafficking in persons and kidnapping for ransom by Al-Qaida and ISIL; and measures to restrict Al-Qaida and ISIL financing. The resolution also provides updates concerning the Office of the Ombudsperson, including communications among the Ombudsperson, the sanctions committee and petitioners. Negotiations on the resolution were prolonged to allow for agreement between the US and Russia on a new Annex III to the resolution (the agreement was reached prior to circulation of the draft resolution to all 15 Council members). The annex adds eight individuals or organisations to the 1267/1989/2253 Sanctions List.  The US pushed for the inclusion of the annex due to frustrations on the part of some members over delays in the committee process, including holds being put on names. Russia had previously opposed the use of annexes to resolutions as a means of adding individuals to sanctions lists, arguing that the listing of individuals in resolutions undermines the credibility of the sanctions committee.

The Council held a briefing on “threats to international peace and security: preventing terrorists from acquiring weapons” on 2 August. Deputy Director of CTED Weixiong Chen, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director Yury Fedotov, Special Representative of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) to the UN Emmanuel Roux, and Jehangir Khan of the UN Office on Counter-Terrorism briefed the Council (Fedotov briefed via video teleconference).

During the meeting, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2370 on preventing terrorists from acquiring weapons. The resolution reaffirms existing obligations to refrain from providing any form of support to those involved in terrorist acts, including by eliminating the supply of weapons to terrorists. The Council further urged states to ensure their capacity to take legal action against those providing terrorists with weapons, implement marking and tracing procedures for weapons, and strengthen judicial, law enforcement and border control capabilities.

In accordance with the recommendation of the Secretary-General, the General Assembly adopted resolution 71/291 on 15 June, establishing the UN Counter-Terrorism Office headed by a new Under-Secretary-General. It was decided that this official will also serve as Chair of the UN Task Force and Executive Director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre. Among other things, the office is to enhance coordination and coherence across the 38 Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force entities, strengthen the delivery of UN counter-terrorism capacity-building assistance to member states, and ensure that due priority is given to counter-terrorism across the UN system and that preventing violent extremism is firmly rooted in the strategy. The office is to maintain a close relationship with the Security Council, strengthening existing links and developing new partnerships.

The Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team assisting the 1267/1989/2253 Sanctions Committee presented its 20th report to the Committee on 20 August. The report notes that there has been a decrease in the overall number of foreign terrorist fighters travelling to Iraq and Syria and that the financial situation of ISL continues to deteriorate. That said, the threat from ISIL continues to evolve. ISIL is still capable of sending funds outside the conflict zone to its supporters, and to motivate and enable attacks around the world. Al-Qaida and particularly its affiliates have demonstrated significant resilience in some areas, such as West Africa, East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and ISIL continues to establish a foothold in South-East Asia.

On 9 August the 1267/1989/2253 Sanctions Committee amended one entry on the sanctions list, and on 18 August Shane Dominic Crawford was listed for acting as a propagandist for ISIL.

Catherine Marchi-Uhel, the Ombudsperson responsible for reviewing requests for delisting from the 1267/1989/2253 Sanctions List, left her position for another UN post on 7 August. A replacement has yet to be named.

Key Issues and Options

The implementation of resolution 2309 and enhancing cooperation between the Council and its subsidiaries and ICAO will be an area of focus in September. The Council may issue a presidential or press statement encouraging further cooperation and requesting a future briefing by Liu.

More generally, a continuing issue for the 1267/1989/2253 Sanctions Committee and the CTC is to ensure that they are able to address, within their respective mandates, the widening scope and various facets of the Council’s counter-terrorism agenda.

Council members will look to hear from Coninsx as to her approach and priorities, and may at a later time request the CTC, CTED and the Secretariat to focus on specific areas or trends related to counter-terrorism. Council members will also expect to hear from Voronkov about his plans for implementation of the mandate of the new Office of Counter-Terrorism, including his views as to his own role and priorities, and regarding the interaction between his office and the Council, the CTC and CTED.

Council Dynamics

The importance of counter-terrorism efforts continues to be one of the principal consensus issues in the Council. However, disagreement as to the methodology of implementation of counter-terrorism measures can be divisive amongst Council members. Currently, such an issue is the imposition of a trade embargo on ISIL-controlled territory. Russia has been a proponent of such an approach as a means of restricting the group’s ability to generate revenue. However, some Council members, including the US, have practical concerns regarding the feasibility of imposing a full embargo on the shifting territory controlled by ISIL, and, furthermore, reservations that a trade embargo may negatively impact long-term stabilisation efforts in Iraq and Syria.

The US is the penholder on counter-terrorism; Kazakhstan is the chair of the 1267/1989/2253 Sanctions Committee, and Egypt chairs the CTC.

UN DOCUMENTS ON COUNTER-TERRORISM 

Security Council Resolutions
20 July 2017 S/RES/2368 This was a resolution renewing and updating the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) & Al-Qaida Sanctions regime. Through an annex to the resolution, eight individuals or organisations were added to the sanctions list.
22 September 2016 S/RES/2309 This was a resolution which called on member states to work within ICAO to ensure that its international security standards are reviewed, adapted and implemented to effectively address this threat.
11 May 2016 S/PRST/2016/6 This was a presidential statement focusing on countering the narratives and ideologies of terrorism.
Security Council Meeting Record
20 July 2017 S/PV.8007 This was a meeting on threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts during which the Council adopted resolution 2368 renewing and updating the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) & Al-Qaida Sanctions regime.
Security Council Press Statements
17 August 2017 SC/12960 This statement condemned the terrorist attack in Barcelona, Spain, during which at least 13 people were killed and at least 80 were injured.
14 August 2017 SC/12955 This statementcondemned the terrorist attack in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on the night of 13 August 2017, during which at least 18 people were killed and at least 18 were injured.
24 July 2017 SC/12925 This was a press statement condemning the terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan on 24 July that resulted in more than 80 people killed or injured, with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claiming responsibility.
7 July 2017 SC/12905 This was a press statement in which Council members condemned a terrorist attack at a checkpoint in Rafah, Egypt, where at least 26 officers and soldiers from the Egyptian armed forces were killed and injured.
Sanctions Committee Documents
18 August 2017 SC/12962 This was a press release about the addition of Shane Dominic Crawford to the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) & Al-Qaida Sanctions List for acting as a propagandist for ISIL.
7 August 2017 S/2017/573 This was the 20th report of the ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida/Taliban Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team.

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