Yevgeniy Sysoyev: Europeans Believe SCO RATS is a Successful Platform to Combat Terrorism

Yevgeniy Sysoyev: Europeans Believe SCO RATS is a Successful Platform to Combat Terrorism

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is celebrating its 15th anniversary. Yevgeniy Sysoyev, Director of the SCO RATS Executive Committee, has told in its interview to TASS how successful the cooperation in combatting terrorism and extremism under the auspices of SCO has proven to be.

- The SCO RATS has been acting for over 12 years as a coordinating structure facilitating fight against terrorism, extremism and separatism. What are the results that you have managed to achieve?

- At the early stages of the organisation, the efforts were focused on achieving stable operation of its working bodies – the Council and the Executive Committee, agreeing and piloting decision making mechanisms, their implementation, setting up coordination between the SCO Member States’ competent authorities, etc.

All internal issues have successfully been resolved, substantial results achieved in addressing the organisation’s objectives of the recent years. One can state that SCO RATS has been successfully time-tested, demonstrated its viability and efficiency, and it has sufficient potential to implement measures that shall ensure regional security and counteract the ‘three evil forces’.

International legal acts have been developed that serve as prerequisites for full-fledged cooperation between the SCO Member States’ competent authorities and comprehensive set of measures developed aimed at harmonizing national legal systems.

The Shanghai Convention on Combatting Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism adopted in 2001 and the SCO Convention Against Terrorism the complemented it in 2009 both developed with due consideration of the experience accumulated and based on the anti-terrorist cooperation practices have cemented unified legal definitions of terms like ‘terrorism’, ‘terrorist act’, ‘terrorist organisation’, etc.

We are currently processing the draft SCO Convention on Combatting Extremism. These fundamental documents undoubtedly contribute not only to unification of approaches to organising fight against new challenges and threats at the SCO area but can also serve as a basis for development and adoption of similar international regulatory legal acts at global level in the UN format which is a requisite condition for effective consolidation of the global community’s efforts in counteracting all forms and manifestations of international terrorism.

RATS today, metaphorically speaking, is a framework for the regional security system under which a very effective mechanism of multilateral cooperation was established and tested which allows to consolidate SCO Member States’ joint efforts aimed at resolving pressing issues, to react in a speedy fashion to dynamic changes in the terrorism, separatism and extremism related environment.

My esteemed predecessors including Mr. V.T.Kasymov of Uzbekistan M.U.Subanov of the Kyrgyz Republic, Mr. D.M.Djumanbekov of Kazakhstan and Mr. Zhang Xinfeng of China (Note by TASS: former SCO RATS Directors) take great credit in the SCO RATS’ establishment and strengthening of its capacity with their contributions to the organisation’s development.

My task today is to multiply my colleagues’ achievements, ensure even greater fulfilment of SCO RATS’ potential to step up the level of coordination and cooperation between the Member States’ competent authorities, strengthen the regional security system all against the background of elevated modern challenges and threats.

- Please explain whether the special services that are members to SCO RATS share the same approaches in addressing new challenges, such as ‘run-in’ tests of insurgent terrorists in hot spots with subsequent return to home country, emerging threats posed by ‘sleeping cells’ and the problems related to the use of suicide bombers. Do the existing cooperation mechanism facilitate joint efforts in detecting such persons?

- Absolutely! The competent authorities of SCO Member States closely coordinate their efforts in implementing a wide range of joint organisational, operational-investigative, preventing and other activities. This is all regulated by a series of agreements including those on cooperation in detecting and blocking infiltration channels of persons involved in terrorist, separatist and extremist activities.

The RATS Council has approved joint measures in priority areas including detection of channels for relocation of people to the regions with elevated terrorist activities with the purpose of participating in domestic armed conflicts on the side of international terrorist organisation; identification and prosecution of persons returning to SCO member states after participating in armed conflicts on the side of international terrorist, separatist and extremist organisation; counteracting recruitment to terrorist and extremist organisations of inmates from SCO member states’ prisons, etc.

The improved mechanisms for exchange of intelligence have facilitated expansion of the cooperation in implementing targeted special investigation activities.

Thus, the competent authorities of SCO member states have averted 167 terrorist and extremist crimes in 2015 alone. Criminal charges were pressed against over 200 persons. 150 terrorists were liquidated, about a thousand abettors were apprehended, two hundred improvised explosive devices and 1500 weapons were forfeited.

- The number of incidences of the use of Internet to recruit members to international terrorist organisations (ITOs) had been increasing recently. The outcomes of combined exercises in counteracting terrorism and religious extremism in the Internet (Xiamen-2015) organised in China were presented at the last SCO RATS meeting. What are the prospects of this line of cooperation?

- As information technologies evolve, the fight against the use of Internet virtual space by ITOs to recruit new abettors, fundraising, coordinating terrorist acts becomes a more and more relevant activity. The Inter-Governmental Agreement of SCO Member States on Cooperation in the Area of International Information Security signed in Yekaterinburg on 17 June 2009 had laid foundations to counteracting these threats. In 2012, Joint Measures to prevent and suppress the use or threats of using computer networks for terrorist, separatist and extremist purposes were developed and adopted.

The SCO Member States’ competent authorities continuously implement practical cooperation under this mechanism, develop joint strategy in counteracting ITOs in the Internet and implement practical measures aimed at blocking destructive websites in accordance with the SCO Member States’ laws. As a result of joint activities of the SCO Member States’ competent authorities and of the Executive Committee in this area, access to 500 websites and almost 200 thousand materials containing terrorist content was blocked in 2015.

In October 2015 the first ever joint anti-terrorist exercise of SCO member states’ competent authorities called Xiaomen-2015, on counteracting the use of Internet for terrorist, separatist and extremist purposes was conducted in China. The objective of the exercise was to study legal aspects, organisational and technical capacities as well as joint action plans and mechanisms for cooperation between the competent authorities of SCO member states in detecting and suppressing the use of the Internet for terrorist, separatist and extremist purposes.

The exercise resulted in acquisition of practical experience in joint planning, preparation and implementation of special operations in this area.

- What are the priority objectives of SCO RATS today?

- The global developments of the last 10-15 years have objectively demonstrated that no single state, no single international organisation is able to stand against the terrorism threats on their own. And SCO RATS is no exception. And SCO RATS had been developing close cooperation with specialised international and regional organisations since the first days of its inception in 2004, with a view to develop a wide partner network to counteract terrorist threats.

We have established contacts and executed regulatory legal acts on SCO RATS’ cooperation with the UN Office for Drugs and Crime, the UN SC Counter-Terrorism Committee, the Interpol, the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, the CSTO Secretariat, the CIS Anti-Terrorism Centre, the Coordination Service of the Council of CIS Border Security Forces, the Central Asian Regional Information Centre for Illegal Trade in Narcotics, Psychotropic Substances and Precursors. A Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation with the Secretariat of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia is currently under preparation.

Our European partners are also expressing their interest towards the SCO RATS activities. Noting the challenging regional situation developing against the background of Syrian conflicts and instability in Afghanistan, the European partners view our structure as one of the most successful regional platforms in counteracting terrorism and have been communicating their competent authorities’ to establish a constructive dialogue with RATS on an increasing number of occasions.

- Do the SCO RATS’ experts cooperate with their colleagues from India, Pakistan, Mongolia, Iran and Afghanistan? Will it expand the potential for anti-terrorist operations of the member states?

- All the countries you have listed are Observers to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

And as we know, two of the Observer States, namely India and Pakistan, are finalising their accession to the organisation as full-fledged Members. It would therefore be prudent to address these two separately. The initiation of accession of India and Pakistan as full members at the Ufa Summit in 2015 has established a new dimension of SCO RATS’ cooperation with these countries. The Executive Committee is preparing to welcome new colleagues to its operations. We are closely cooperating with India’s and Pakistan’s foreign offices to resolve organisational and legal matters. I believe that the two countries’ competent authorities will make a commendable contribution to our work.

As for the cooperation with Mongolia, Afghanistan and Belarus, I can highlight our work aimed at establishing contacts and preparing contractual and legal basis for cooperation with these countries’ competent authorities including Mongolia’s Anti-Terrorism Coordination Council, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the State Security Committee of the Republic of Belarus.

Representatives of the Observer States to the SCO regularly attend research and practical conferences on cooperation in the filed of counteracting international terrorism and extremism organised annually in Tashkent by the Executive Committee.

We put a great deal of trust in the prospects of cooperation with new Dialogue Partners of the Organisation including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia and Nepal.

Interview facilitated by Alexander Shashkov

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