The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Ben Emmerson, and his team recently concluded a visit to Saudi Arabia where they met with various heads of government institutions in the Kingdom.
As part of his findings, Emmerson stated that he was impressed by Saudi Arabia’s efforts and commended its work on countering the spread of violent extremism. Along with security-oriented strategies, Saudi Arabia’s comprehensive approach encompasses social, political and economic areas such as strict money laundering regulations that stems the flow of terrorist financing and a strong commitment to international cooperation.
One example of this longstanding commitment is comments of Saudi’s foreign minister regarding President Trump’s upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia. He said that the trip would be an opportunity to enhance cooperation between the US and Muslim countries in the fight against extremism.
Unlike countries in Europe and the North America where conditions in prisons breed terrorism and violent extremism, Saudi Arabia has developed methods to rehabilitate and reintegrate those suspected and convicted of terrorism. Emmerson noted that, “Saudi Arabia can rightly be proud of the genuinely rehabilitative nature of the facilities in which it houses prisoners accused of terrorism.”
He commended the standard of care, the conditions of detention, and the medical and recreational facilities of the Kingdom’s detention centers and stated that they are, “are amongst the highest in the world”.
Along with security-oriented strategies, Saudi Arabia’s comprehensive approach encompasses social, political and economic areas such as strict money laundering regulations that stems the flow of terrorist financing and a strong commitment to international cooperationHaifa A. Aljedea
Although those working in counterterrorism in the region already know this, this is a conspicuous finding by the UN rapporteur as it gives a platform to the significant work Saudi Arabia is doing in this area. Recent reports have indicated prisons in Europe act as breeding grounds for terrorism and violent extremism.
While Europe struggles to prevent the spread of terrorism and terrorist attacks, Saudi Arabia is years ahead with the development of an effective and comprehensive rehabilitation strategy.
One rehabilitation center in the Kingdom reports an 86 percent rate of non-recidivism. In fact, the UN rapporteur has recommended that other countries consider the Saudi model for counter-radicalization especially for those convicted of terrorism.
Along with bi-lateral collaboration between Saudi Arabia and other countries, the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Center (which was created through a $110 million donation from Saudi Arabia) is an appropriate way to apply the rapporteur’s recommendation as it is the main counterterrorism capacity building arm of the UN System.
Emmerson also commended the government’s efforts to alleviate the suffering of victims of terrorism. Although the United Nations has called for supporting the victims of terrorism through its Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, many countries neglect those most affected by terrorism and this heinous form of violence.
As stated by the Rapporteur’s findings, Saudi Arabia’s institutions offer comprehensive programs that includes financial, psychological, educational, and moral support. Counter-terrorism experts regard supporting victims not only as an important aspect of an all inclusive strategy, but as a significant method to prevent violent extremism and the spread of terrorism.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on May 10, 2017.
Haifa A. Aljedea is a former political affairs officer at the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Center and adviser to Permanent Mission of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations.