May 29, 2015 / 7:55 PM / 2 years ago

At U.N., states urged to do more to stop flow of foreign fighters

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Interior ministers from members of the United Nations Security Council on Friday voiced concern that some countries were not doing enough to prevent their citizens from traveling abroad and joining militant groups like Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

In a move sparked by Islamic State's military conquests, the 15-nation Security Council adopted a resolution last September at a meeting chaired by U.S. President Barack Obama demanding that all states "prevent and suppress" the recruitment and travel of militant fighters to foreign conflicts.

But the results so far have not been perfect, the council said in a unanimously adopted statement. It cited "serious concern" that some countries do not provide other national authorities with advance passenger information while many have yet to criminalize attempts to join, aid or fund terrorism.

A U.N. expert group said this week there were at least 25,000 foreigners from more than 100 countries fighting in various organizations tied to al Qaeda globally.

The U.S. homeland security secretary, Jeh Johnson, told the council that "much more work needs to be done."

"More needs to be done to strengthen legal systems where needed – in particular to criminalize the intent to travel as foreign terrorist fighters to commit terrorist acts, as well as to counter acts like training and facilitating terrorism activities – and do so as expeditiously as possible."

In a new report, the U.N. Counterterrorism Committee identified a set of "priority measures" that must be taken, including those Johnson outlined.

The committee warned of the tendency of those trying to join militant organizations to break up travel to mask their ultimate destinations. It described the failure of most states to carry out immigration control of international transfer passengers at their airports as a "global systemic shortfall."

The committee also called for the need to do more to beef up law enforcement, preventing the use of the Internet to promote terrorism, cut off financing and criminalizing the financing of terrorist groups and individual terrorists.

Britain's top civil servant in the Home Office (interior ministry), Mark Sedwill, said Internet firms should not wait for state regulation before taking steps to prevent militants from using their services.

Lithuania's foreign minister, Linas Linkevicius, who chaired the meeting as his country holds the rotating council presidency this month, cautioned that the fight against terrorism must be "in full respect of human rights, fundamental freedoms, pluralism, the rule of law, and democratic governance."

Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Leslie Adler

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