|Published: July 2017|
Abu Dhabi. The US State Department on July 19 released the Country Reports on Terrorism 2016, where it highlighted the UAE’s increased counterterrorism efforts reports Emirates News Agency WAM.
“The nation increased its counterterrorism prosecutions in the last year, with the Federal Supreme Court’s State Security Court hearing more than three dozen separate terrorism-related cases,” it said. Most of the cases involved defendants accused of promoting or affiliating with UAE-designated terrorist organisations, including Daesh, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al-Nusrah Front, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood, the report explained. “The court applied the UAE’s strict counterterrorism laws, together with its Cyber Crime and Anti-Discrimination legislation, in the adjudication of these national security cases,” it added.
The Country Reports on Terrorism 2016 provides the Department of State’s annual Congressionally-mandated assessment of trends and events in international terrorism between January 1st and December 31st, 2016. It provides policy-related assessments, country-by-country breakdowns of foreign government counterterrorism cooperation, and contains information on state sponsors of terrorism, terrorist safe havens, foreign terrorist organisations, and the global challenge of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear terrorism.
The report noted that the total global number of terrorist attacks in 2016 decreased by nine percent over the previous year, and total deaths due to terrorist attacks decreased by 13 percent, compared to 2015. This was largely due to fewer attacks and deaths in Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Yemen. Although terrorist attacks took place in 104 countries in 2016, they were heavily concentrated geographically. Fifty-five percent of all attacks took place in five countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and the Philippines), and 75 percent of all deaths due to terrorist attacks took place in five countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, and Pakistan).
The State Department uses the findings of the Country Reports on Terrorism to devote resources towards improving the counterterrorism capabilities of key partner countries, as well as focusing long-term efforts in addressing the driving factors of violent extremism.
The report’s overview of the UAE also stated that the UAE Government maintained its robust counterterrorism and countering violent extremism (CVE) partnership with the United States by its collaboration with US law enforcement, support of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh, and counter-messaging initiatives, such as the Sawab and Hedayah Centres. “It also hosted the Sunnylands Conference where key stakeholders discussed counter-messaging strategies. The UAE government remained co-chair of the Coalition Communications Working Group along with the United States and the United Kingdom, and also co-chaired the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) CVE working group with the UK,” it said.
It continued, “During the year, UAE Customs, police, and other security agencies improved border security and worked together with financial authorities to counter terrorist finance. UAE-based think tanks and research institutions, including the Emirates Policy Centre, the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, the Tabah Foundation, the Future Institute for Advanced Research and Studies, B’huth, and Hedayah, held conferences, seminars, and roundtables on countering terrorism and violent extremism.
“As in previous years, the Government of the UAE worked closely with the United States, through the US Department of Homeland Security, to improve its border security situation. Abu Dhabi Police’s Criminal Investigations Division’s robust law enforcement information sharing with DHS Homeland Security Investigations helped counter trans-national criminal organisations and terrorist groups. In an effort to meet the growing demands associated with the massive increase in international travel, Abu Dhabi Police continued to adapt its law enforcement programmes to counter related trans-national crimes. The UAE Federal Customs Authority, FCA, also received a mandate from the Government of the UAE to federalise the seven emirate Customs Agencies. The FCA requested DHS assistance to standardise all aspects of the new Federal Customs, to include training, uniforms, equipment, non-intrusive inspection equipment, hiring, techniques, policies, etc.”
The report went on to highlight the UAE points of entry which utilise an internal name-based watchlist system which was populated by local immigration, deportation, corrections, and security agencies to identify individuals who were prohibited from entering the country or were sought by UAE authorities. “INTERPOL and Gulf Cooperation Council watchlists were incorporated into the UAE’s internal watchlist,” it said.
On Countering the Financing of Terrorism, the report says that the UAE is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force. “The UAE’s financial intelligence unit, the Anti-Money Laundering and Suspicious Cases Unit, is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. The UAE also participated in the Coalition’s Counter-Daesh Finance Group. The UAE requires financial institutions and designated non-financial businesses and professions to review and implement the UN Security Council Daesh and al-Qaeda sanctions regime on a continuous basis,” it noted.
In November 2016, the UAE government cooperated with the US Department of the Treasury to disrupt the activities of a Yemeni exchange house supporting and facilitating financing for AQAP, the report said.
It also identified the UAE’s creation of the post of Minister of State for Tolerance in February as an effort to promote tolerance is part of its mission to counter violent extremism in the UAE. It said, “In June, the government launched the National Programme for Tolerance as part of its Vision 2021 initiative. The programme focuses on five pillars, strengthening the government’s role as an incubator of tolerance, the role of the family in nation-building, promoting tolerance among young people and preventing fanaticism and violent extremism, enriching scientific and cultural tolerance content, and contributing to international efforts to promote tolerance.
“Prominent UAE officials and religious leaders continued to publicly criticise violent extremist ideology and highlight the dangers of violent extremism. UAE Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, H.H. Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, and H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, among many others, were active on social media platforms in condemning terrorist attacks in Belgium, France, Pakistan, Turkey, the United States, and other countries.”
The report concludes by saying that the UAE was a vocal and active participant in counter-terrorism efforts at both the regional and international levels, including the Global Counter-terrorism Forum.