Good Practices on Regional Border Security Issues Related to Terrorism and Other Transnational Crime Suspects in the Sahel Region
Published: 26/01/2017 by GCTF
The Sahel region is noteworthy for its vast, sometimes ill-defined, and lightly patrolled land borders. Terrorists exploit this geographical feature by planning attacks in one State, committing them in another, and returning to the first State or traveling to a third State. Terrorist groups also take advantage of weak border controls to plan and execute the kidnappings for ransom that are now an established and significant source of funding for terrorist training and recruitment. Additionally, criminal actors whose activities may intersect with and enable those of terrorist groups—including weapons, drugs, and human smugglers—exploit weak border controls.
The UN Charter, relevant international conventions, and other relevant international law provide the legal basis for States to cooperate to protect their national sovereignty and territorial integrity and to take measures to combat and eliminate acts of terrorism. Within the GCTF, the Sahel Region Capacity-Building Working Group (SWG) identified border security as a priority. The UN Secretary General-appointed assessment mission to the Sahel recommended that the UN support and strengthen the SWG’s border security efforts.
During the SWG’s Technical-Expert Level Meeting on Border Security in May 2012 in Niamey, hot pursuit was identified as one way some states in the Sahel have sought to deal with the complex challenge of pursuing terrorists across open borders or ungoverned spaces. Simply stated, “hot pursuit” on land involves authorities from one state crossing into the territory of another state—under an explicit agreement with the second state—to continue the pursuit of a suspect or group of suspects begun immediately after the commission of an offense. Even when such agreements are in place, “hot pursuit” is generally regarded as the preferred response only when the second state is not in a position to pick up the pursuit once the suspects enter its territory.
A number of international actors have identified the need to strengthen border security efforts including “hot pursuit” authorities and practices in the Sahel region given the vast distances between settlements in border regions and the existence of transnational terrorist and criminal organizations. A special assessment mission to the Sahel region appointed by the UN Secretary-General in 2011 noted that application of “hot pursuit” varies throughout the region, and recommended that such application be based on bilateral agreements.1
Accordingly, the United States, in partnership with Niger, organized the first Sahel Cross-Border Workshop in Niamey in October 2013 to identify challenges and good practices in “hot pursuit.” The border security practitioners from the Sahel region who participated in this workshop emphasized that bilateral and sub-regional agreements are the foundation of “hot pursuit.” They further noted that the absence of bilateral agreements in the region, except in a few cases, makes “hot pursuit” risky for the pursuing state and creates a potential flashpoint between States. Finally, they stressed that a regional framework of principles and good practices could provide the tools and political impetus for states to establish and refine such agreements, and to develop standard operating procedures for “hot pursuit” accordingly. A second GCTF workshop took place in Dakar, Senegal, in March 2014, where participants encouraged the development of a comprehensive, regional approach to border security in the Sahel, specifically in the realm of cross-border “hot pursuit” of suspected terrorists and other criminals. Specifically, participants sought to build on the series of meetings by developing a set of good practices designed to serve as a foundation or starting point for countries to design bilateral agreements and associated law enforcement procedures.
1. United Nations, S/2012/42, 18 January 2012.