By Jean-Paul Laborde
It is an unacceptable reality that thousands of lives are lost each year due to terrorism. The most immediate impacts are felt by families and communities, often our most vulnerable populations, as individuals cope with the trauma of losing loved ones and the imposing sense of insecurity in day to day activities. South Asia has suffered enormous consequences of terrorism. At the domestic level, these attacks result in the deterioration of political stability, economic progress, and national security. The rich histories, vibrant cultures, and desires of those hoping only to build a better future for themselves and their loved ones, are threatened daily. The United Nations condemns terrorism in all of its forms in the strongest possible terms.
In this context, a key element in countering terrorism is bringing terrorists to justice. It is often stressed that prosecution also constitutes prevention of terrorism. But how does that translate into concrete measures on the ground? One way is to promote regional cooperation among those that have to enforce the rules and go after the perpetrators. This is why judges, prosecutors, and police officers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka today kick off a Regional workshop on effectively countering terrorism in South Asia.
The challenges of deterring and bringing terrorists to justice are large in scope and the complexities often discouraging, however. In South Asia as in many other parts of the world, terrorism is linked to a host of other challenges including the flow of illicit goods and persons – of explosives, illegal funds, and suspected criminals – across porous borders. Developing the capacity of States, their law enforcement officials and members of the judiciary on both sides of the border to be adequately equipped to deal with these issues requires a cooperative, sustained approach.
As a testimony to our persisting efforts, this week’s workshop is the 10th of its kind in seven years. It marks the culmination – but not the end – of a process that has involved over 300 senior judges, prosecutors, and police officials representing all of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries, as well as donor countries Australia, Canada, Denmark, India, Sweden, and the United States of America. Numerous international and regional organizations have sent representatives, including ASEANAPOL, the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute, EUROPOL, the GSM Group, the Institute of South Asian Studies (Singapore), INTERPOL, the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation, the Observer Research Foundation (India), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (Sri Lanka), SAARC, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Experts have come from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as from South Asian States.
An unconventional forum to ensure continuous dialogue among judges, prosecutors, and police officers, the 10th workshop is coordinated by the United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) in partnership with the Global Center for Cooperative Security, with generous financial support being provided by the Governments of Australia, and of the United States of America. Over three days, these experts will share their experiences and explore specific issues that arise in the context of terrorism-related cases, specifically issues linked to money laundering and the financing of terrorism. This year, discussions will be facilitated by resource persons from Australia, Bangladesh, Nepal, and the United States, along with observers from INTERPOL, SAARC, and UNODC.
Efforts to thwart terrorist activities and to bring perpetrators to justice are both of paramount importance. CTED, and the United Nations system at large, are committed to continued engagement with the region. We stand ready to support the States of South Asia to prevent terrorist attacks before they happen – and to bring the perpetrators to justice when they do.
Jean-Paul Laborde is Assistant Secretary-General and the Executive Director of the United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED)