Strengthening Judicial Capacity to Combat Terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa

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In October, the CEELI Institute continued its ongoing efforts to support judges in countries on the front lines in the fight against terrorism, with support from the US Department of State’s Counterterrorism Bureau. The most recent program was designed to support judges from the Middle East and North Africa, and brought together judges and prosecutors from Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia. The intensive three-day exchange focused on best practices for judges adjudicating cases involving terrorism and other national security issues, with special reference to The Hague Memorandum on Good Practices for the Judiciary in Adjudicating Terrorism Offenses, a Good Practice document based on relevant international guidance and developed under the auspices of the 30-nation Global Counter Terrorism Forum (www.thegctf.org).

The October program was held in Malta, as part of our ongoing partnership with the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (www.theiij.org), itself a leader in counterterrorism programming efforts. Judges and prosecutors from the United States, France and the Netherlands with specialized experience in counterterrorism adjudication facilitated highly interactive exchanges, using firsthand experiences, case studies, and hypothetical problems to engage the assembled group and drive the conversation.

The CEELI Institute’s judicial counterterrorism efforts represent a unique opportunity to work directly with judges who are struggling to handle terrorism cases in a region plagued by new threats and challenges. These judges are often grappling with issues of first impression involving new laws, new kinds of cases and evidence, new factual scenarios and new sentencing challenges. This program provided them an important opportunity to share experiences and good practices in addressing these key issues.

Bolstering Counterterrorism Adjudication in the Balkans and Beyond

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The CEELI Institute recently began a multi-year program that will engage judges handling complex cases involving issues of terrorism and national security, including the increasingly serious threats posed in Europe by the transit of foreign fighters. In particular, the program aims to promote understanding and use of relevant international “good practices” fCT Strategy Sessionor judges on these matters, including particularly the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s (GCTF) Hague Memorandum Good Practices for the Judiciary in Adjudicating Terrorism Offenses. The program effort is being undertaken in partnership with the Malta-based International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (IIJ) and with funding from the US State Department. Participating judges will be drawn primarily from the Western Balkans and Middle East/North Africa (MENA) regions.

In light of the increased terrorism across Europe, the vast transit of refugees to Europe from Syria, the continuing conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and the particular burdens this puts on both the Balkan countries and countries throughout MENA, the issues encompassed by the GCTF Good Practice documents are more important than ever. Judges across the region will benefit from greater training and preparation on how to handle cases involving both domestic terrorism and the new phenomenon presented by foreign fighters.

The initial sessions are being conducted at the CEELI Institute facility in Prague, and include an intensive 3-day workshop that aims to familiarize the judges with the “Good Practice” documents and expand on their meanings, implications, and relevance to cases the judges might find themselves presiding over in the near future. Workshops will be regionally specific and the Institute intends on training no fewer than 80 judges over the course of this project. International experts from both Europe and the United States will be engaged throughout the project to help create a thorough, yet understandable curricula that will help participant judges gain a solid understanding of relevant best practices and how to incorporate them into their future work.