Remarks on the GCTF 23rd Coordinating Committee Meeting Session 2 “GCTF-Inspired Institutions Collaboration”

Steven Hill
Executive Secretary
International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law

Thank you to the Co-Chairs and to the host for this meeting, Kenya. This focus of this segment is the Prosecution, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration of Former Terrorists. Let me provide (1) an update on our recent work related to PRR; (2) some reflections on what we’ve learned based on this work; and (3) some recommendations for potential future work.

As a GCTF Inspired Institution, the IIJ’s value added proposition to sustainably strengthen rule of law-compliant criminal justice responses that highlight and implement GCTF’s priorities and framework documents.

In 2023, the IIJ offered over 3,000 individual training days to 900 practitioners. We did this through 28 tailored training and capacity- building activities across a wide variety of thematic and geographic areas of focus, centered on the IIJ’s core regions of Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Various data indicators help us measure our impact.

In this work there are clear synergies between the three GCTF Inspired Institutions our engagement within various GCTF working groups, alongside the IIJ’s regular cooperation with UN agencies and other stakeholders. You can count on us to support the Co-Chairs’ vision in this regard.

Before moving on to PRR, I want to thank all those who participated in this month’s events on the occasion of the IIJ’s tenth anniversary, including the commemorative event hosted by the President of our host country Malta.

It was particularly gratifying to benefit from the presence of many of our alumni, many of whom took part in our courses as mid-level practitioners and have continued on to positions of responsibility in their countries.

What has the IIJ done on PRR to date?

Most recently we participated in October 2023 in the GCTF FTF’s Working Group the Returning FTFs Families Initiative Workshop to Integrate Policy and Practice. Let me point out one aspect of this workshop: the focus on practice. A practical, specific, and close-to- the-ground approach of sharing challenges – and how these challenges have been overcome – has great value.

This is why over the course of the past two years, the IIJ has provided a platform of exchanges and discussions on the challenges related to repatriating, rehabilitating, reintegrating — and where appropriate prosecuting and incarcerating — of nationals who are held in Northeast Syrian– including those with links to terrorist groups and their families.

This has included hosting intensive dialogues of senior practitioners involved in this work, most recently in May 2023 in Malta. Further dialogues are planned over the course of this year.

In order to draw high-level attention to this issue, we also organized in September 2023 on the occasion of the 78 the UN General Assembly a side event entitled “Enabling the Safe Return of Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs) and Associated Family Members from Northeast Syria.”

This work builds on a considerable amount of past and ongoing work on prosecution.

For example, we have an ongoing program on cross-border cooperation, including a series of workshops on mutual legal assistance for Somali practioners. The next workshop will be held here in Nairobi next week.

In 2019, the IIJ organized a Global Workshop focusing on insights from our work in the area of Battlefield Evidence and how to transfor, intelligence into evidence. Between 2017 and 2020, we organised eight workshops and a capstone event to assist criminal justice practitioners from Sahel countries in amending their national policies to better align with GCTF Good Practices.

The judicial response to children linked to terrorism has also been one of our priorities of our work on how to practically implement the GCTF Neuchatel document.

Outdated stereotypes among prosecutors about women and their role in terrorism that can also hinder prosecutorial work. We are working on this issue and will be hosting a regional summit for Southeast Asian practitioners at the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation in Indonesia next week on the role of women as terrorist actors.

What have we learned from these activities?

The lesson is clear from the perspective of criminal justice practitioners: the failure to link prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration in an effective way will not work and could even be counter-productive.

Successfully investigating, prosecuting and adjudicating terrorism cases in a rule of law framework is challenging in every country.

From the prosecutorial point of view, the IIJ has identified a specific need for support to make the shift from confession-led to intelligence-and evidence-led investigations and prosecutions.

As our colleague from Kenya’s Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions explained the last panel, there are also challenges related to legal frameworks. My IIJ colleagues and I had the chance to visit with the Director of Public Prosecutions and his staff earlier this week; thank you for the hospitality.

There is also a continuing, more general need to improve drafting and advocacy skills to present evidence and legal arguments for a fair trial in these particularly challenging cases.

The IIJ focuses on addressing Returning Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs) and include again coordination and cooperation by: (1) encouraging international judicial cooperation; (2) helping criminal justice actors assess and respond to accompanying FTF family members, including children; and (3) promoting appropriate rehabilitative and reintegration efforts for returning FTFs.

First-hand feedback from our participants in 2023 highlighted the need for a whole-of-society approach, inclusive of civil society actors and local communities, to rehabilitative approach, that amplifies the need for increasing collaboration between judges, prosecutors, law enforcement and civil society, supported by CSOs which have monitoring, reporting, rehabilitation and even deterrent capabilities.

Recommendations for further GCTF work on PRR:

One thing stands out: this is an area where the GCTF can really add value, especially through its focus on practitioners. Of course, the IIJ is the only GCTF Inspired Institution with a specific mandate to support the implementation and operationalisation of GCTF Good Practices for criminal justice practitioners. But PRR is an ideal area where we can work together as the three GCTF Inspired Institutions (IIJ, GCERF, Hedaya), alongside our regular cooperation with UN agencies, including UNOCT and UNODC.

Comprehensive strategies to respond to these challenges entails 1/ right-sizing our cooperation to be holistic-oriented, 2/ addressing specific and measurable objectives, 3/ amplifying the advantages of the GCTF and its Inspired Institutions’ respective strengths.

The outcome of such cooperation could feed GCTF influence on normative practices as it has been the case with the GCTF Hague – Marrakesh Memorandum on Good Practices for a More Effective Response to the FTF Phenomenon.


On behalf of the IIJ, I wish to reiterate our heartfelt gratitude for the generous support we have received since our inception 10 years ago that enable our institution to make a practical difference in the counterterrorism realm, and for the ongoing and expanded support we continue to receive to help sustain our work as a GCTF Inspired Institution.

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