OSCE PA Members share lessons learned on the effective prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of FTFs and their families

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COPENHAGEN, 18 May 2021 – The challenge of repatriating, prosecuting, rehabilitating and reintegrating foreign terrorist fighters was in focus today at a hearing organized by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on Countering Terrorism (CCT). Concerned particularly with the possibility of repatriating nationals detained in conflict-affected areas following the territorial defeat of the Islamic State terrorist group, the event examined the experience of Kazakhstan as a case study for lessons learned and good practices.

In an effort to help inform other OSCE participating States about effective prosecution and rehabilitation strategies, authorities of Kazakhstan shared their experiences with the complexities of planning and conducting repatriation operations from Syria and Iraq, including the challenges of rehabilitating FTFs and their family members.

In his opening remarks, CCT Chair Reinhold Lopatka (Austria) said that terrorism and violent extremism represent multi-dimensional challenges that require multi-dimensional responses, as well as strong international networking and co-operation among governments. “The effective prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of ‘foreign terrorist fighters’ are no exception in this regard,” he said. “FTFs continue to pose complex security challenges to many of our countries: while some have returned home and faced prosecution, many more are stranded in Syria and Iraq.”

PR cct embReinhold Lopatka, Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Countering Terrorism, delivering his opening remarks, 18 May 2021Lopatka noted that in his recent visit to the region, he witnessed the dire situation first-hand, with thousands of people with suspected links to ISIL and other terrorist groups being held in precarious conditions and overcrowded camps for years, including many women and children. “This situation is clearly unbearable in the longer run, and I think it represents a ticking-bomb for the entire OSCE region. Duly co-ordinated international support efforts in countries like Syria and Iraq, as well as targeted prevention and de-radicalization campaigns in Europe, should be our top priorities in the coming months and years,” Lopatka said.

Briefing the PA on Kazakhstan’s experience with FTFs were Sarzhanov Kairat, Director of the International Security Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Republic of Kazakhstan; Bauyrzhan Bakirov, Deputy Chair of the Committee on Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Information and Social Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan; Yulia Ovechkina, Deputy Chair of the Committee for the Protection of Children’s Rights at the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan; and Bibigul Munaitpasova, Head of the Department of the Committee of the Penitentiary System at the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The Kazakhstani representatives described the challenges of balancing the needs for law enforcement and prevention with the long-term strategies of reintegration and rehabilitation. They also provided background to the CCT members on the political and diplomatic groundwork required for such repatriations, the decision-making process related to the identification and choice of persons to be repatriated, and the evidence and charges applied to prosecute FTFs once repatriated.

Particular focus was placed on addressing concerns that some returnees may commit other violent acts, or participate in recruitment and incite others to take part in terrorist activities. Ensuring the appropriate treatment of these individuals, including prosecution, deradicalization and reintegration into society, is crucial not only in properly addressing their individual cases in compliance with international standards and obligations, but also in preventing future attacks and promoting internal reconciliation, it was stressed.

In the discussion, CCT members shared relevant experiences from their own countries, focusing in particular on prosecution of FTFs, rehabilitation of women and children and on the social perception towards returnees. It was also emphasized that while governments have an obligation to prevent and counter terrorism, the measures they apply in addressing challenges posed by FTFs must be human rights-compliant, proportionate and fully in line with the rule of law framework.

Closing the meeting, Secretary General Roberto Montella thanked the Kazakhstani authorities for sharing their experience and best practices. “It is important to work both bilaterally and multilaterally, including through parliamentary assemblies, to develop joint responses. In this context, I am proud that the OSCE PA provides a platform to learn from each other and will continue to promote parliamentary leadership on this topic of convergence among all participating States,” he said.

The hearing was organized with the support of the OSCE Programme Office in Nur-Sultan, represented during the meeting by Volker Frobarth.

For more information on the work of the OSCE PA’s Ad Hoc Committee on Countering Terrorism, please click here. 



Nat Parry

Head of Communications and Press

Office: +45 33 37 80 55
Mobile: +45 60 10 81 77
Email: [email protected]

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