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03-04/2010 Fast search  

Anti-terrorism Leave no chance to the terrorist
Jean-Paul Laborde

In March, Moscow hosted a representative international conference “Anti-Terrorist Partnerships between States, Businesses and Civil Society: Practice, Science and Education” organized in the framework of the Russian international initiative for strengthening public-private cooperation in countering terrorism. UN Secretary General’s envoy and an authoritative anti-terrorism expert Jean-Paul Laborde took part in the conference. During his stay in Moscow, Mr. Laborde held consultations with the officials from the Presidential Administration, Foreign Ministry, Security Council and Prosecutor-General’s Office discussing interaction in the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy endorsed by the 61st session of the General Assembly in September 2006. In the view of the importance of combating terrorism, the VIP-Premier Editorial Board asked Mr. Laborde to share his appraisal of international efforts in countering this threat. Herein, we present this exclusive interview to readers’ attention.

Jean Paul Laborde – since April 2009 heads the United Nations Counter-terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) within the United Nations Department of Political Affairs (DPA). Before that, he served in the Vienna-based United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as Chief of its Terrorism Prevention Branch. He began his UN career in 1994 as Senior Interregional Adviser with the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Program. Subsequently, he was assigned as Chief of the Conventions and Legal Affairs Section with the Center for International Crime Prevention (CICP). Prior to joining the United Nations, Mr. Laborde was a member of the French Judiciary in the capacities of a Judge, Chief of the National Inspection of the Penitentiary Services, Assistant Prosecutor General and Chamber President of the French Second Court of Appeals. He is also associate professor in the Law Faculty of the University in Toulouse, Secretary General of the International Review of Penal Law, as well as Secretary General and member of the Scientific Committee of the International Association of Penal Law. He is married with three children. Mr. Laborde studied the Russian language.


– The main objective of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) consists in pooling efforts of all UN bodies in the sphere of combating terrorism. There are 30 such bodies today, including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, UNESCO, the Department for Political Affairs, and the UN Department for Public Information. We also try to coordinate efforts of various economic institutions. The CTITF bases its activities on the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy approved in 2006. The strategy lies on four main pillars. First, it is comprehensive combating factors assisting and promoting the emergence of the terrorist threat. All aspects are important starting from elementary education of children. Of course, it is not about general school education, but rather about special programs similar to UNESCO’s anti-terrorist educational program. This will help boost people’s negative attitude to terrorism. It is an open secret that in the society there are people who are far from immune to the influence of terrorism. Working with all segments of the society we will not leave a single chance for terrorists to emerge.

The second one is strict adherence to the supremacy of the law and the respect of human rights. I will return to this important issue later. The third pillar is security and vigilance. Terrorists often target innocent people, civilians. Remember acts of terror in Pakistan killing a great number of civilians. It’s horrible! We must not only expose a terrorist or a terrorist organization but prosecute and punish them according to the law. Alas, the United Nations is not strong enough to ensure this completely. Countries themselves must bear the responsibility, at least partly. The role played by the United Nations is extremely important, because it is aimed at creating and establishing norms. The CTITF is one of the main anti-terrorist actors in the world community providing direct assistance to the countries effectively combating terrorism.

– What is the progress in cooperation between the CTITF and Russia?

– Russia has already a rather strong record in providing security and combating terrorism particularly in terms of state-private partnership. That is why I’ve come to the conference “Anti-Terrorist Partnerships between States, Businesses and Civil Society: Practice, Science and Education.” In my view this kind of partnership is very important because who else than the private business, often the subject of terrorist acts itself, must oppose this threat.

The fourth pillar is UN measures, strategies and documents aimed at the rise of its member-states’ potential in combating terrorism. Priority here goes to criminal law and human rights observance. There is no universal prescription how to counter terrorism. Countries are trying all their means to combat terrorism. That is exactly why it is so important to observe the basic principles and guidelines of the Global Strategy.

– What is the framework of cooperation between the CTITF and the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee?

– The CTC, as a division of the Security Council, is the body with the adequate potential to react promptly to large-scale acts of terror, like the September 11 attacks on the United States or the Beslan (tragedy). But CTC’s global capacities are not limitless and in this case it requests our assistance. In some respects the CTC and the CTITF do the same work but never compete with each other. When the Committee needs support from a UN body, the CTITF provides all necessary information or assistance.


– What are the specific features of the terrorist threat in the 21st century?

– Whereas in the past terrorism had political roots, today terrorists are non-governmental agencies receiving no support from the state. I’m positive, al-Qaida and Taliban act independently of any state. Another specific feature of the modern terrorism is its close contacts with the organized crime. For example, Afghanistan’s Taliban is developing in the region dominated by illicit arms, drugs, and human trafficking. So far we are unable to trace their channels of delivery but we can affirm that the terrorist entities are connected with the organized crime.

Modern terrorism is nurtured by human and financial investments. Moreover, the struggle against terrorism is impeded by vagueness about where, when and what investments will be attracted. In the 21st century terrorism is especially dangerous for we are desperately short of time and space. Travelling around the world, of course, I use my BlackBerry for monitoring the global situation. But when I receive information about an act of terror, I do not always have enough time to respond properly. Terrorists know this and use the inadequate speed of response to their advantage. Therefore, I believe that we must be not so much quick as far-sighted and preventive in our actions. We must foresee terrorists’ moves and act accordingly.

The 21st century is the century of high speeds and eroded borders. This also complicates our work while terrorists use this to their advantage. A separate problem is application of legal means in the situation of intertwining cultures. In this connection, let me use an allegory such as comparison of a bicycle and a Ferrari racecar. Terrorists drive their Ferraris sweeping uncontrollably across all borders whereas law enforcers must ride their bicycles to get to the border and contact their similarly equipped colleagues on the other side.

– To what extent people worldwide are guaranteed against negative consequences of anti-terrorist operations? Could it be that under this flag someone would try to crack down on rivals?

– Politicians don’t have the green light to use the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy for unjust purposes. I’m sure this will never occur. As a political instrument, this document deals with international security as well as with combating terrorism. The machinery worked out by the Security Council is offered for practical use by the countries. Their objective is to establish norms and implement the policy through specialized institutions. Strategies of the UN member-states cannot deviate from the principles of the Organization. In all its actions, including those aimed against terrorism, the United Nations always emphasizes the importance to adhere to the UN Charter and humanitarian conventions as well as to secure human rights and the supremacy of the law.

– Do innocent victims of anti-terrorist operations receive the same treatment as the victims of terrorists?

– We must not confuse these two terms. The world lacks an international fund for the support of victims of terrorism. Different countries tackle this issue independently. Some NGOs are also involved such as the Global Survivors Network. Unfortunately, victims among civilians are unavoidable and terrorism uses this for its benefit. That is exactly how it won notoriety. In our work we are guided by the UN Charter and observe human rights. But we are well aware of the possibility of human victims. Hence, it is very important to find a balance. However, people who are under a terrorist threat realize the fragility of their situation and start fighting terrorism. Pakistan gave a recent example of this. Locals said “Enough!” and expelled from their area a group of militants responsible for a car-bomb blast killing more than 80 people during a volleyball match. People themselves, not the state, did it.


– How do the state, business and society consolidate their efforts in countering international terrorism?

– The international community copes with this task in general. In this context I would like to mention the judicial system. Prior to joining the Organization, I was a member of the French Judiciary and view the procedural aspect as extremely important. As of late we have been deeply involved exactly in procedural issues softening the negative impact of terrorist events. Once again I would like to emphasize the importance of coordinating anti-terror policies with the issues of education and youth culture. It is a long-term problem. The UN has already laid the groundwork and the states must continue this policy on the national level. Major companies by definition might become allies of the state since they themselves could become targets of terrorists. Think, for instance, of the Internet. There are websites which favor terrorism. I’m positive this problem should be tackled not only by official institutions such as the FBI or Prosecutor’s Office (their powers are limited), but also by private persons: for example, by Microsoft and their partners. There is an extremely acute problem of security against the nuclear threat. It is tackled by the United Nations, its IAEA, as well as by other international institutions and agencies. Representatives from the IAEA have been invited to our Task Force. We’ve done a lot providing assistance in this sphere and a lot is yet to be done.

– Does the global financial crisis hamper anti-terrorist operations?

– All depends on our reaction to the financial crisis. If we treat it as the main problem, we might overlook other serious problems. Financial fluctuations shall not push the terrorist threat out of the limelight because this could damage international security. Even if a state is short of moneys and has a budget deficit, should it forget about security? I’m positive that the main thing is to establish peace in a land and eventually everything will be settled. There is an opinion that peace in a country is impossible without a good economy. I think vice versa: peace and order in a state lead to the flourishing of businesses and the successful development of enterprises. Issues of peace and security have been always very important and anti-terrorist activity is their essential ingredient. It would be a serious mistake to separate the struggle against terrorism from peace and security. It is not for nothing that after the Detroit plane incident last December, front pages of newspaper previously riddled with headlines about climate changes – the weather behind the window prevents me from saying “global warming” [smiles] – and the financial crisis, all at once switched to security problems. And that was right! Mass media must assume a leading role in responding to such situation speaking first about the importance of countering terrorism and only then about other problems. They must emphasize that it is inadmissible to neglect the most important thing on earth and let it be overshadowed by new problems. For if we forget about the priority of peace and security we might lose too much.

– Are you satisfied with the level of cooperation with Russia?

– Of course, I am. The Administration of the President of the Russian Federation and the (Russian) Foreign Ministry contributed a lot to the promotion of public-private partnership in combating terrorism. I was among the first to believe in reality of such interaction. And here today I see serious achievements. Russia was one of the major world powers that supported the creation of our Task Force set up in conformity with a UN Security Council resolution. My cooperation with Russian partners bases on mutual trust and confidence. We have a long tradition of cooperation. As for today I cooperate with the Administration of the President of the Russian Federation and personally with Mr. Anatoly Safronov, presidential special envoy on international cooperation in countering terrorism and transnational organized crime. It is also planned that I will have a meeting with Valentin Sobolev, deputy secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. It is my pleasure to cooperate with Ilya Rogachev, the newly appointed director of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of New Challenges and Threats. Of course, our opinions don’t always coincide but we reach mutual understanding because we know very well that we must work comprehensively. That is why we share common views on public-private partnership in combating terrorism. I'm always open to listen to another point of view or to exchange experience. Generally, I’m open for cooperation and I’m satisfied with cooperation.

Interviewed by Katerina LABETSKAYA

Moscow, Petrovka str. 26 bld.2