As the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) Coordinator at the State Department, I’ve had the pleasure of watching the GCTF grow and become the “go-to” international venue for civilian-led counterterrorism cooperation. In partnership with 28 countries across the globe and the EU, the GCTF has made its mark, developing a range of good practices documents on everything from the rule of law to prison rehabilitation and community-oriented policing, to preventing kidnapping for ransom, to assisting counterterrorism practitioners in their daily work, and mobilizing $230 million in member funds towards efforts to strengthen civilian institutions and counter violent extremism. Its notable milestones have included the setting in motion of the Global Fund for Community Engagement and Resilience and the opening of Hedayah, the International Center of Excellence on Countering Violent Extremism in Abu Dhabi.
Continuing this momentum, I’m excited about the inauguration of the GCTF-inspired International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (IIJ), which will open its doors today in Valletta, Malta. U.S. Ambassador to Malta, Gina W. Abercrombie-Winstanley, joins Maltese Foreign Affairs Minister George Vella and other government officials from the 12 IIJ founding member nations (Algeria, France, Italy, Jordan, Malta, Morocco, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States), the EU, UN, and other partners to inaugurate the institute.
The IIJ will train and provide capacity-building support for lawmakers, police, prosecutors, judges, corrections officials, and other justice sector stakeholders on how to counter terrorism and other security challenges within their borders and regions within a rule of law framework. Our work through the IIJ will build the institutional capacity of our partners to promote justice, security, and human rights. The IIJ will play a central role in our collective efforts to support countries in North, West, and East Africa and the Middle East, particularly those in transition.
Malta provides an ideal home for the Institute where these trainings will take place, quite literally linking the European and African continents with deep historical ties in both directions. The IIJ’s geographically diverse governing board will include representatives from the 12 founding countries – with the IIJ's day-to-day work being directed by an Executive Secretary. We are delighted that a Department of Justice prosecutor, with a wealth of experience training criminal justice officials in partner countries has agreed to serve as the interim Executive Secretary and spearhead the continued institutional development of the IIJ until the Board appoints a permanent Executive Secretary.
The IIJ will hit the ground running, hosting its inaugural training session the day after the Institute opens. The two-day training will bring together prosecutors and investigators who will discuss how to effectively investigate and prosecute terrorist facilitation networks in the Sahel and Maghreb, with a particular focus on addressing the flow of foreign fighters to Syria.
Following the inaugural session, the IIJ already has a number of training workshops scheduled following the inaugural session, including: 1) a training on countering terrorist financing organized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), focused on building legal cooperation between Libya and regional countries related to terrorist financing; 2) a GCTF-UN initiative aimed at building an informal judicial cooperation network for investigating and prosecuting counterterrorism cases across the Sahel-Maghreb; and 3) the launch of a four-course series on what it means to counter terrorism within a rule of law framework designed by the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) and delivered by USIP and experts from Africa and the Middle East.
These initial activities will set the stage for the Institute’s future work, which will include the development of a dynamic and multidimensional curriculum of practical training courses on topics including: legal frameworks, investigations, police/judicial cooperation, role of the judiciary, pre-trial detentions and trials, prison management and rehabilitation, preventing kidnapping for ransom, and what it means to counter terrorism within the rule of law.
We look forward to working with our fellow founders and board members and other government and non-government partners to provide the Institute with the guidance, expertise, and resources it needs to thrive for years to come.
About the Author: Eric Rosand is the Director for Multilateral Affairs in the Bureau of Counterterrorism at the State Department, also serving as the Department's GCTF Coordinator.