Friday, June 28, 2013

New UN counter-terrorism head doesn't know what terrorism is

From the UN:

– Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today [June 20] confirmed the appointment of French criminal justice veteran Jean-Paul Laborde as the new Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED), following the concurrence of the Security Council.

Mr. Laborde, who will serve at the level of Assistant Secretary-General, will succeed Mike Smith of Australia, who held the position since 2007 and to whom the Secretary-General expressed his deep gratitude for his dedication and able leadership.

The position was established by the Security Council in 2004 to bolster the 15-member body’s ability to monitor the implementation of a landmark resolution adopted in the wake of the September 2001 attacks on the United States, which calls on countries to adopt a number of measures to enhance their ability to counter terrorist activities nationally, regionally and globally.

During his 17 years of United Nations service, Mr. Laborde held positions as Senior Advisor to the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Department of Political Affairs, in Charge of Counter-Terrorism Affairs (2009-2010); and Director and Chairperson of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (2010-2011). He also served as Interregional Advisor on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice at the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC).
There are major problems with Laborde as the lead person to combat terrorism.

He is on the record as saying that Hamas and Hezbollah are not terrorist organizations and he holds the absurd view that somehow international terrorism would decrease if there was a peace agreement:

A senior UN official says the threat of terrorism will be diminished in the Middle East once the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved. Jean Paul Laborde, adviser to the UN Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, said on Thursday that terrorism has deteriorated since the September 11 attacks and will not diminish unless the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.
He rejected the idea that the Islamic Resistance Movement of Hamas is a terrorist organization and called for talks and dialogue with this Palestinian entity.

“Hamas is not a terrorist organization in the United Nations…we should talk to Hamas because once the Israeli-Palestinian issue is resolved, the threat of terrorism will diminish.”

“The UN sets universal norms and has many mechanisms to fight terrorism…Some 30 UN agencies work together to implement the UN counter-terrorism strategy…which is based on preventing and resolving conflicts and supporting victims of terrorism,” he said.
He also says that defining terrorism is not very important to combating it:
I would also like to clarify one popular misperception that the absence of a definition of terrorism hampers the international legal framework on countering terrorism. That is not true. There is an often expressed desire to have a general definition of terrorism. However, it is important to point out that, due to the principle of legality which is fortunately very strict in criminal law and international criminal law, we need to speak more specifically of defining the acts of terrorism, thereby covering all the aspects of the terrorist activities.

To provide you with a comparison, there is no general definition of transnational organized crime. Yet, the international community agreed on a comprehensive Convention against Transnational Organized Crime by defining specific acts that constitute the phenomenon of transnational organized crime. In the same vein, we have no general definition of corruption and still we have a comprehensive United Nations Convention against Corruption. In both conventions, specific acts covering all the aspects of the criminal activities undertaken in transnational organized crime or in corruption are criminalized. A similar approach in the field of countering terrorism would be pragmatic.
Laborde is essentially saying that terrorism is like crime. He has no interest in the philosophical or religious justifications for terrorism, only that the acts themselves must fought - which is the same thing as crime, his other field of interest. If there is no  difference between a jihadist killing someone with a bomb or a burglar killing someone with a knife, then there is really no reason for the UN to have a separate counter-terror group to begin with. Indeed, the speech that this section was taken from was from a conference on 'Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Systems and their Development in a Changing World.’

From what I can tell, the UN calls out only  Al Qaeda and the Taliban as being groups that should be proscribed - and even they are not specifically defined as terror groups!

Moreover, one would hope that the UN counter-terrorism head would concentrate on fighting terror, and letting other UN groups fight for human rights. But Laborde is more concerned with the possibility that counter-terror actions might impede on human rights than in fighting the terrorism itself.

Laborde is a poor choice for being at the forefront of international fight against terror.

(h/t Anne Bayefsky)