Speech

"Let us use all the tools at our disposal to make sure that there is no impunity"

Statement by Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on International Judicial Cooperation.

United Nations

Thank you Minister, thank you Mr President,

And thank you to our briefers for really interesting updates. I need to begin by offering my sincerest condolences to Amr the Permanent Representative of Egypt, following the horrific bombing in Cairo yesterday. This attack is yet another reminder of the unrelenting cruelty and barbarity of the terrorist threat that we face.

Today we grieve with Egypt, but in truth, terrorism threatens us all. Too many of us around this table have experienced the savagery of these groups in recent years. They are a clear threat to international peace and security and they are a threat that we must tackle together.

It’s a fight that requires our fullest cooperation; between our police and security forces, between our diplomats, and as we are discussing this afternoon, between our judicial institutions.

Today, we have shown our shared commitment to that cooperation through the welcome, unanimous adoption of resolution 2322 and I’d like to pay tribute to you, Mr President, and to your excellent delegation here, for your initiative in bringing this important issue before the Council.

Because when terrorists act without any regard for international borders, without any regard for the laws of one country or the next, we must work together to ensure justice crosses borders in response.

My country saw this, sadly, when terror came to the streets of London in July 2005. One of the attempted bombers, Hussain Osman, fled the United Kingdom on the 21st of July after his bomb failed to detonate on the London Underground. Thanks to our cooperation with Italy, Osman was arrested 8 days later in Rome and was extradited to the UK less than two months later. He is now serving a minimum 40 year sentence.

Sadly, since 2005 there has been a steady increase in the need for similar cooperation. And with the rise of the foreign terrorist fighter phenomenon, the complexity of such cases has grown. Take the case of Zakaria Chadili, a French national who travelled to Syria to join Al Nusra Front in January 2014. By May that year, he had fled to the United Kingdom. He was arrested on the 9th of May and extradited to France just over a month later.

His case follows an increasingly common pattern; a national of one country committing a crime in another before fleeing to a third. And yet, there are countless returning fighters who have yet to face justice in the way that Chadili has. So let us use all the tools at our disposal to make sure that there is no impunity for any of them. These tools should include even more cooperation on extraditions, even greater mutual legal assistance, and more engagement with Interpol.

To underpin such efforts, we face new challenges gathering the evidence needed for the extradition, arrest and prosecution of terrorist suspects. The internet is now a front line in the battle against terrorism. Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels are sadly hijacked as a recruiting ground for extremists. So in turn, we must also use these networks to find the evidence needed to stop their hateful activities.

This requires closer cooperation with tech companies and greater, faster information sharing between countries. We shouldn’t underestimate the complexity of this task. In the UK, on average, each terrorism investigation brings with it 10.7 terabytes of data. Put another way, that’s 4.4 billion pages or 35 miles of paper. And, in the pursuit of this evidence, we cannot allow ourselves to undermine the freedoms that the terrorists want to destroy. Restrictions on social media, abuses of online privacy, and any type of censorship are simply not the answer.

We also need to recognise that evidence isn’t only to be found in the Twitter feeds and emails of foreign terrorist fighters. It’s also found in the liberated towns of Iraq, at the scene of Da’esh’s terrible crimes. So preserving and sharing that evidence is just as important if we are to see justice finally being done.

And that’s why the British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, alongside the Foreign Ministers of Iraq and Belgium launched an initiative on Da’esh accountability here in September. As a first step, we look to the United Nations to take action to gather and preserve evidence of Da’esh’s crimes in Iraq. The Government of Iraq is clear that it would welcome international support to complement their efforts so far.

Together, UK and Iraqi experts have been working on a proposal to this end and we look forward to bringing this to the UN very soon.

Thank you Mr President.

Published 15 December 2016