September 9, 2014 / 4:29 AM / 3 years ago

U.N. Security Council plans to suppress foreign extremist fighters

Militant Islamist fighters waving flags, travel in vehicles as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council plans to demand countries “prevent and suppress” the recruitment and travel of foreign fighters to join extremist militant groups like Islamic State by ensuring it is considered a serious criminal offence under domestic laws.

The United States circulated a draft resolution late on Monday, obtained by Reuters, to the 15-member Security Council and hopes it can be unanimously adopted at a high-level meeting chaired by U.S. President Barack Obama on September 24.

U.N. diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the council was likely to reach agreement on a resolution. A U.S. official said there appeared to be consensus among council members on how to tackle foreign extremist fighters.

The draft resolution is under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which makes it legally binding for the 193 U.N. member states and gives the Security Council authority to enforce decisions with economic sanctions or force. However, the draft text does not mandate military force to tackle the foreign fighter issue.

The draft “decides all States shall ensure their domestic laws and regulations establish serious criminal offenses sufficient to provide the ability to prosecute and to penalize in a manner duly reflecting the seriousness of the offense”.

It would compel countries to make it illegal for citizens to travel abroad, collect funds or facilitate the travel of other individuals abroad “for the purpose of the perpetration, planning, or preparation of, or participation in, terrorist acts, or the providing or receiving of terrorist training”.

It decides countries “shall, consistent with international human rights law, international refugee law, and international humanitarian law, prevent and suppress the recruiting, organizing, transporting or equipping” of foreign fighters.

The draft resolution generally targets foreign extremist fighters traveling to conflicts anywhere in world, but has been spurred by the rise of Islamic State - an al Qaeda splinter group that has seized swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate - and al Qaeda’s Syrian wing, Nusra Front.

THOUSANDS OF FOREIGN FIGHTERS

Some 12,000 fighters from 74 nations have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight with extremist groups, said Peter Neumann, a professor at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King’s College London.

“It is easily the most significantly foreign fighter mobilization since the Afghanistan war in the 1980s,” he told reporters on Monday, noting the Afghan conflict led to the formation of the al Qaeda network.

“Networks are being forged (in Syria and Iraq) that will be consequential and relevant for an entire generation to come,” said Neumann, who has studied foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq for two years and this week met with Security Council members.

The Security Council last month unanimously adopted a British-drafted resolution targeting Islamic State and Nusra Front, which condemned foreign fighter recruitment and threatened to sanction people who finance or facilitate foreign fighter travel.

The U.S.-draft calls on states “to require that airlines under their jurisdiction provide advance passenger information to the appropriate national authorities in order to detect the departure from their territory, or attempted entry into or transit through their territory” of people under U.N. sanctions.

It would also require states to prevent entry or transit through their territories of anyone about whom they have credible information that they are seeking to plan or carry out attacks or join an extremist militant group.

Turkey is struggling to staunch the flow of foreign jihadists to the militant group, having not so long ago allowed free access to those who would join its neighbor’s civil war, now in its fourth year.

Turkey has a “no-entry” list of thousands of people suspected of seeking to join extremists in Syria based on information from foreign intelligence agencies, a Turkish official has said, and barred more than 4,000 people from entering the country last year alone as a result.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Jeremy Laurence

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