Recently, while meeting with members of the United Nations Security Council led by the United Kingdom’s Permanent Representative, Ambassador Mathew Rycroft at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja, the Nigerian Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo had called for global support towards the review of the international legal instruments and conventions on warfare and conflicts, primarily to curtail the on-going unconventional and brutal operations of terrorists and insurgents around the world.
In recent times, the gruesome attacks by terrorists and insurgents have received global attention with the world’s most developed countries witnessing a dramatic increase in deaths from terrorism.
In 2015, the Global Terrorism Index reveals that ISIS had claimed responsibility for 6,141 deaths through various attacks in more than 250 different cities in the same year including high-profile attacks on major cities in Belgium, France and the United States, setting the world on edge.
A report by the World Economic Forum in April 2016 exposes a new kind of protracted guerrilla war stretching from the Americas and Europe across Africa, Asia and the Arab world, warning that “the group is irregular, hybrid and networked, involving a constellation of terrorist organizations such as ISIS and Al Qaeda”.
“Rather than hitting specific groups of people or symbolic sites, cities themselves are coming under siege. Complicating matters, violent extremists are recruiting directly from poorer and marginal neighbourhoods across the West. The extent of local recruitment and so-called extremist travelling from Western countries is certainly cause for concern,” the Forum noted.
A study titled “Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq” by Soufan Group estimates that as many as 31,000 people from 86 countries had made the trip to Iraq or Syria to join ISIS or other extremist groups since June 2014.
Similarly, report by International Journal of Arts and Humanities in 2015 recounts that insecurity has been a major dare to the Nigerian government with the actions and activities of the insurgents leading to enormous loss of lives and properties, particularly in the Northern part of the country.
According to the report, “some of these activities include intimidation, bombings, suicide attacks, sporadic gunfire of unarmed, blameless and innocent Nigerian citizens, burning of police stations and churches, kidnapping, raping of school girls and women”.
By April 2016, no fewer than 20,000 lives were lost while 2.8 million persons were displaced from various attacks in the Northeast with estimated $9 billion economic loss. Consequently, Nigeria has been included amongst one of the terrorist countries in the world. This without doubt has serious implications for national development, as no nation thrives in presence of endemic insecurity.
The severity of increasing attacks by the insurgents on innocent Nigerians with resultant development implications had triggered the global call by the Vice President for the review of relevant legal instruments and conventions on warfare and conflicts to address emerging terrorist attacks
“We must, on a global scale look again at how to deal with these new challenges. We need to look at the governing conventions, what type of legal categories, recognition of law we should give them (to the perpetrators of terror and insurgents). We need to re-examine how to deal with these individuals according to law,” he said.
As part of the efforts to provide globally aligned legal provisions in combating various acts of terrorism, the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism were adopted in 1997 and 1999 respectively. While the former “creates a regime of universal jurisdiction over the unlawful and intentional use of explosives and other lethal devices in, into, or against various defined public places with intent to kill or cause serious bodily injury, or with intent to cause extensive destruction of the public place”, the latter requires parties to take both direct and indirect steps to prevent and counteract the financing of terrorists.
A recent assessment of the various adopted counter-terrorism efforts by the United Nations by Centre for Policy Research of the United Nations University had classified the UN’s counter-terrorism work in recent years into three—a norm-setting role that includes the development and promotion of a Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and efforts to counter violent extremism; capacity building activities to help countries meet these obligations; and Security Council-mandated sanctions, in the 1990s, against state sponsors of terrorism.
The review therefore, reveals that the treaties suffer from lack of a monitoring and follow-up regime in the treaties; insufficient conditions for effective counter-terrorism leading to no statistically significant reduction in the post-treaty number of attacks; inability by UN members to unable to agree on a definition of terrorism, raising serious human rights concerns, as this allows some governments to justify their prosecution of legitimate political dissent as combating terrorism; security-based counterterrorism measures, which alone have not been sufficient to prevent the spread of violent extremists; the weakness in the UN’s norm development to offset the negative effects of counterproductive counter-terrorism policies by Member States that ultimately exacerbate the terrorist threat.
Abubakar Jimoh is the Head of Communications at Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Abuja. Email: [email protected]