COUNTER-TERRORISM MEASURES UNDERTAKEN BY AZERBAIJAN
The scourge of terrorism is not a new phenomenon for Azerbaijan as she has experienced this phenomenon long before the 11 September 2001 events. There are documented facts about Armenian terrorists activities carried out within the territory of Azerbaijan as well as the neighbor countries and claimed thousands of innocent human lives. Since the late 1980s, when Armenia openly encroached upon the territory of Azerbaijan and began its military activities in the Nagorny Karabakh region of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Armenian terrorists have repeatedly committed terrorist acts in the territory of Azerbaijan. Certain Armenian terrorists who have been condemned in other countries for their criminal activities were members of the Armenian political elite, and some of them still enjoy the fullest support within official political circles and political parties.
Azerbaijan spares no efforts to make a tangible contribution to the effective counter-terrorism efforts. Following the terrorist attacks against the United States, Azerbaijan has been firmly and promptly acting for making her contribution to the global campaign against international terrorism. Responding to the calls of the international community, Azerbaijan has opened its air space and airports for the use of the anti-terrorist coalition in the fight against Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Azerbaijan contributes to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF) with 1 platoon (30 personnel).
Azerbaijan adopted a package of legislative measures aimed at bringing the relevant legislation of Azerbaijan into the line with international legal instruments in the field of preventing and suppressing acts of terrorism as well as the use of the financial-banking systems for financing such acts:
- On 18 June 1999 the Parliament adopted the Law on Counter-Terrorism which establishes the legal and institutional groundwork for combating terrorism, coordinates the activities of the competent government agencies and sets out the rights and duties of such agencies and citizens.
- On 1 September 2000 the Parliament adopted the new Criminal Code criminalizing terrorism (art.214) and attempts on the life of a State or public figure (art.277) and other types of crime linked to terrorism - hostage-taking (art. 215), hijacking an aircraft, sea vessel and railway train (art. 219), illegal manufacture of weapons (art.229), misappropriation or extortion of weapons, ammunition, explosive substances or explosive devices (art. 232), establishment of military formations of groups that are not provided for in the legislation (art.279) etc.
- On 1 October 2001 the Parliament adopted the Law on Accession to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and on the 11 October 2001 the President signed a Decree on Adoption of the Act on Accession to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.
- On 3 November 2001 the President issued a Decree on the Implementation of UNSC resolutions 1368 (2001) and 1373 (2001) and on 7 November 2001 the Cabinet of Ministers adopted a Decision on the Implementation of the abovementioned Presidential Decree of 3 November 2001 designed for the Ministry of National Security, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Finance, Office of Prosecutor General, National Bank and State Customs Committee.
- On 11 May 2002 the President issued a Decree on the Plan of Action towards the Implementation of UNSC Resolutions 1368 (2001), 1373 (2001) and 1377 (2001).
- On 17 May 2002 the President approved the Law on Amendments and Additions to several legal acts of the Republic of Azerbaijan in view of the application of the Law on "Accession to the Convention for the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism" which brought about appropriate changes and additions to the Law on Counter-Terrorism of 1999, the Criminal Code of 2000. In particular, a new article (art. 214-1) on the financing of terrorism has been introduced into the Criminal Code upon the application of the Law mentioned.
Azerbaijan has acceded to all 12 international conventions on counter-terrorism.
As for the executive machinery, counter-terrorism activities are carried out through bilateral and multilateral cooperation among various national agencies. The law-enforcement and intelligence bodies, namely the Ministry of National Security, Ministry of Interior and State Border Control have the leading role in combating terrorism derived from their primary responsibility to ensure security and stability within the country. In particular, they are engaged in implementing necessary measures to:
- identify, arrest and prosecute persons suspected of organizing, financing, supporting and committing terrorist acts;
- to monitor and protect Azerbaijan's frontiers;
- to suppress the transnational organized crime linked to terrorism (illegal migration, trafficking in small arms and light weapons, drugs) etc.
The Ministry of National Security consistently cooperates with other states' special services in suppressing the scourge of terrorism. As the result of this fruitful cooperation about 40 terrorists have been extradited to their national governments for the last 3 years.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs fulfills its coordinating role in the anti-terrorism campaign cooperating with the National Bank, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of National Security, Ministry of Interior, State Customs Committee, and State Border Guard Service. Azerbaijan undertook necessary measures to identify, freeze accounts of individuals and entities included in the 1267 UNSC Committee's Consolidated List of terrorist groups and organizations.
At the same time, along with suppressing the scourge of terrorism, the problem of terrorist financing and money laundering is taking on a special significance. In Azerbaijan one of the leading government agencies to fight terrorism financing is the National Bank. Consequently, measures continue to be implemented to promote adoption by Azerbaijan's banking system of international standards. As the result of the scrutinized work of the National Bank along with the Ministry of Justice, the account of "Benevolence International Foundation" and "Global Relief Foundation", organizations designated in the 1267 UNSC Committee's Consolidated List were identified and immediately frozen.
Azerbaijan also reinforces the regional cooperation through signing the bi-, tri- and multilateral agreements and participation in the activities of certain regional organizations (OSCE, EAPC, OIC and others).
Azerbaijan makes its contribution to the counter-terrorism efforts within various regional organizations such as GUUAM, Council of Europe, BSEC, CIS etc. Information and expertise sharing between Azerbaijani government agencies and their foreign counterparts is one of the main "wires" of such cooperation.
Acting as a chair of the GUUAM Working Group on the struggle against terrorism, organized crime and drug trafficking, Azerbaijan represented GUUAM at the special meeting of the UN CTC with international, regional and subregional organizations on 6 March 2003. Summary report of the GUUAM activities and experience in the area of counter-terrorism with the indication of future projects and plans has been submitted to the CTC special meeting.
Azerbaijan also hosted a number of international conferences and other events on anti-terrorism, for instance, 2002 OSCE Conference on "The Role of Religion and Belief in a Democratic Society: Searching for ways to Combat Terrorism and Extremism", 2003 NATO/EAPC seminar "Links amongst terrorism, drugs smuggling and other illegal activities" etc. The 1st National Workshop on Implementation of the UNSCR 1373 held in Baku on 30 April 2003 within the OSCE ODIHR project "Counter-Terrorism in the Caucasus and Central Asia".
One of the major hurdles to counter terrorism in Azerbaijan is the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. This "grey zone" controlled by Armenian armed forces is beyond national and international surveillance and actively used by terrorists, organized crime syndicates and illegal drug dealers. While assessing the threat of terrorism and searching for ways of effectively addressing this scourge there is a clear need also to focus on the issue of relationship between conflicts and terrorism.