Boundaries between crime and terror are blurring UN hears

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The evolving nexus between crime and terrorism, ranging from street level deals to complex symbiotic relationships, demands greater understanding to break the illicit flow of black market cash across borders a United Nations meeting heard.

Terror groups are becoming increasingly-involved in “lucrative” criminal activities such as trading in natural resources and human trafficking, Michèle Coninsx, Executive Director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), told the Security Council briefing on the issue.

Similarly, criminal groups join hands with terrorists and provide services such as counterfeiting, arms dealing and helping smuggle terrorists from one country to another, she said.
“We know terrorist groups recruit individuals with criminal backgrounds or skills. Petty crimes are committed to finance terrorist activities, including travel of foreign terrorist fighters,” she explained noting conflict and instability further entrenches deal making.

The head of CTED said her office and other components of the UN counter-terror effort, including the UN Office on Drugs and (UNODC) and the UN Inter-regional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), are co-operating to address the scourge.

She highlighted her directorate’s work with UN member states, identifying good practices, including joint investigative units and effective prosecution mechanisms, to handle organised crime and terrorism.

Looking to the future Coninsx urged the international community to strengthen co-operation in the fight against terrorism and its support structures, especially to identify new terrorist trends, map linkages between terrorists and criminal groups and share information more effectively.

Links between organized crime and terrorism ‘not new’

At the briefing, Gustavo Meza-Cuadra Velásquez, chair of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), said links between terrorism and international crime syndicates was not new and has been on the agenda of the Security Council as well as the General Assembly for a long time.

Velásquez, also the Permanent Representative of Peru to the UN, highlighted the importance of international instruments – in particular, the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and its supplementary protocols and Security Council resolutions – for countries to disrupt criminal and terrorist groups.

In that context, he said development of an effective response to the growing nexus between terror and crime should remain a high priority during his leadership of the committee.
‘Blurring lines’ between organised crime and terrorism

Laura Adal, a senior analyst at the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime, said the use of violence and threat of violence employed by terrorists and criminal groups, tends to “blur the lines” between the two.

While dynamics of individual groups are unique and localised, criminal and terrorist groups contribute to instability and undermine governance and both rely on the “strategic” use of violence according to her.

Responding to the crime-terror nexus must take into account the propensity toward violence and intimidation, she said, calling for greater efforts to strengthen rule of law, democratic governance and development.

At the same time ensuring governments and societies allow the benefits of development to reach all citizens was equally vital Adal said.