PRESS RELEASE BY THE MINISTRY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE PROMOTION: Strengthening the Global Counterterrorism Valletta Recommendations legacy

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion, Carmelo Abela, gave the key note address at the start of a two-day regional workshop organised by the Malta-based International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law on how parliamentarians can help in the fight against terrorism by translating their resolve into concrete results that can deliver a deadly blow to the threats posed by terrorism.

Entitled The Nexus of Parliamentarians and Criminal Justice Actors in Counterterrorism: Implementing the GCTF Valletta Recommendations, the workshop aims to continue to strengthen the legacy of the Global Counterterrorism Forum Valletta Recommendations, and is part of the political follow-up to a regional event held in collaboration with the Arab Parliament in Cairo last October.

At this point, we know we have to concoct a ‘cure’, the Minister told the workshop attendees after discussing the different forms of terrorism threatening the world, the areas most at risk, and the expense needed to tackle it.

But this will be of no use unless we also tackle ‘prevention’. This is why I believe a true holistic counterterrorism strategy requires a two-pronged approach: top-down and a bottom-up.

He reported that the Valletta Recommendations concerning parliamentarians already provides the framework for a top-down approach, but we parliamentarians will be useless acting alone. We need to reach out. To work together. We need a bottom-up approach to our counter-radicalisation strategies that involves judges, the police and military personnel, criminal justice actors, educators and school curriculum planners, religious leaders and organisations, youth and sport organisations, plus local communities.

He spoke about how social safety nets are needed so youth have education, training, and employment opportunities, and not too much time and anger against governments, society, and life to be attracted into terrorism activities.

Policies that create better educational opportunities, better social infrastructure, and better economic governance to attract the necessary foreign direct investment and trade are crucial.

As is the response of governments being comprehensive and multi-faceted, but always embedded in justice, the rule of law, and the full realisation of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. Because the absence of these three factors together, with weak legislation, will otherwise be counterproductive.

The Minister continued to talk about radicalisation, and how terrorist groups are aware that government have been working hard with online companies to remove propaganda, and are placing a greater emphasis on disseminating content at speed in order to stay ahead.

We must work to help the online industry to go further, and faster, in automating the detection and removal of terrorist content online – plus developing technological solutions that prevent it being uploaded in the first place.

He added that it was also important that governments provide a safe and just law framework in which online companies can operate freely, without impinging on the individual’s basic right to access information online.

And how criminal procedure rules, and rules of evidence, play a critical role in ensuring that the criminal justice system can address terrorism, including the protection of the rights of victims, plus the protection of witnesses and their families. Otherwise, the failure to address terrorism through the criminal justice system could pose serious risks of human rights abuses.

The Minister stressed how violent extremists promote fear and division, and how parliamentarians need to push for tolerance. They preach exclusion and hate to rip apart our diverse social fabric and create insurmountable mental barriers. And we have to respond by continuing to promote peace, to strengthen the rule of law and justice, by promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, by spurring on legislation and policies that are inclusive, that are sensitive towards diversity and acceptance.

Source: Government of Malta