While several country-specific training manuals and capacity building workshops had been organised on how to prosecute terrorism-related crimes, no overarching guidelines were available to assist prosecutors and investigators with the collection, use and sharing of evidence in terrorism-related cases. Establishing good practices on this is important to developing an effective and rule of law-based criminal justice response to terrorism.
At the request of the co-chairs of the Criminal Justice and the Rule of Law (CJ-ROL) Working Group of the GCTF, Nigeria and Switzerland, ICCT supported the Working Group in developing recommendations during expert meetings and through consultations with relevant GCTF members and other stakeholders.
These recommendations were adopted during the Ministerial Meeting of the GCTF in September 2018. The focus of the recommendations was on international law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal prosecutions of terror suspects, the collection, use and sharing of forensic evidence, digital evidence, intelligence to be used as evidence in court, evidence collected on the battlefield, and the hearing and use of witnesses.
About the project
Terrorists and terrorist networks are increasingly transnational in nature. Foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) cross borders to join terrorist organizations in other countries, to relocate to new conflict zones or shelter places, or to return to their countries of residence. Furthermore, terrorist organizations often have members and cells in various countries, use social media and the Internet to coordinate and communicate their actions, move financial resources and other assets across borders to support their activities, and use international criminal trafficking networks to raise funds and/or acquire weapons, skills and explosives.
Due to the increasing complexity of terrorism cases, successful prosecution is both demanding and difficult. Overall, successful prosecution in terrorism cases requires intense coordination during the investigative phase related to the gathering of evidence and on the use of the general or specific investigative tools available.
Evidence in terrorism cases can sometimes be staggering in volume, encrypted or in a foreign language, classified or located in a conflict zone, or technically so complex that it requires forensic or technological experts. In order to bring terrorists to justice it is important that admissible evidence should be used to the fullest extent possible. As sometimes terrorism charges – such as providing material support to a terrorist organization, – do not by themselves reflect the full extent of crimes that have been committed, prosecutors should therefore aim to try terrorist suspects, including FTFs, in a manner duly reflecting the seriousness of the crime. This will help to achieve justice, restore dignity and bring closure to victims.
The Abuja Recommendations, geared toward policymakers, law enforcement officials, and prosecutors, offer suggestions to help build a solid case based on strong and admissible evidence. These include recommendations on:
- law enforcement and judicial cooperation;
- the collection, use and sharing of forensic evidence;
- the collection, use and sharing of electronic evidence;
- the collection, use and sharing of criminal intelligence;
- collection, use and sharing of evidence by the military; and
- the hearing of witnesses and the use of testimony.
By bring together policymakers, subject matter experts and practitioners during the expert meeting, and sharing best practices, this resulted in a better understanding into why and how different types of evidence are being relied upon in different countries and how these can affect human rights.