Supreme Courts fight against terrorism in the Sahel
Faced with the continuous rise of terrorism in the Sahel, UNODC provides judiciary assistance to the region's States in order to help them better prevent, investigate and prosecute acts of terrorism. In this context, UNODC has organized a regional workshop on the role of supreme courts in the fight against terrorism.
Building upon two previous regional meetings, which took place in Mali in October 2016 and in Niger in May 2017, UNODC organized this third workshop in Nouakchott, Mauritania, from 10 to 12 July. In partnership with the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), theAssociation des Hautes Juridictions de Cassation des pays ayant en partage l'usage du Francais (AHJUCAF), the Organisation Internationale pour la Francophonie (OIF), and the New York-based Global Centre on Cooperative Security, this workshop brought together 38 participants (including 3 women) representing supreme courts in the Sahel, as well as Mauritania's law enforcement and criminal justice institutions (including the Gendarmerie and other officials from the judiciary) and international experts.
The particular nature and strong symbolism that characterize terrorism often generate numerous theoretical and practical questions. In this context, the legal and judiciary assistance provided by UNODC to Member States allows the dissemination of new tools and skills to the region's practitioners, while providing a space within which they can share their respective experiences and challenges and share good practices.
This third workshop was preceded by a visit of Mauritania's Supreme Court, of Nouakchott's Criminal Court, as well as the country's specialized poles in charge of investigating and prosecuting terrorism-related crimes. Participants then took part in a review of Mauritania's jurisprudence concerning terrorism acts, and continued their visit of the various specialized organs' premises, with a delegation of officials from the criminal justice system, under the leadership of Mr. El Houssein Ould Naji, the President of Mauritania's Supreme Court.
The second part of the workshop was the opportunity for experts and practitioners to discuss the importance of supreme courts in the fight against terrorism. As a supreme court's verdict influences and guides the future potential applications and interpretations of the law, they play a significant role in the struggle against terrorism. Throughout the workshop, participants discussed the importance of ensuring that each steps of every procedure be respected and properly implemented.
Moreover, they highlighted the necessity to protect the rights of both victims and defendants as well as the crucial role of all actors within the judiciary. Towards the last stages of the workshop, a special attention was brought to the difficulty to find a balance between the requirement for an efficient process and the protection of human-rights, most particularly those of the defendant.
This meeting also represented an opportunity for judges, prosecutors, lawyers and law enforcement professional from the Sahel to build or extend their networks, discuss the challenges they face and disseminate their respective experiences and best-practices. Their active participation and the deep exchanges between participants represent encouraging indicators of the state of the judiciary within the Sahel.
In the framework of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, UNODC contributes to Member States' efforts to strengthen stability within the region, through training workshops and other activities at the national and regional level. This activity was made possible thanks to the generous contribution of Japan, who also contributed to the previous two workshops in Bamako and Niamey. A final meeting is expected to take place in Dakar, early next year.