Rabat – Moroccan and Spanish officials and experts have called for security cooperation in the Sahel region and North Africa, where the threat of terrorism is constantly increasing.
The call was issued during the second edition of the Moroccan-Spanish Forum for Security Cooperation, held in Rabat on Friday.
Discussions at the forum focused on the regional threat posed by terrorism, highlighting the Moroccan experience as a success story in this volatile part of the world.
“The countries of the region are increasingly worried over the danger of terrorist organizations,” said Mohamed Aujjar, Morocco’s Justice Minister, during a speech. He pointed out that terrorist organizations are exploiting instability in some parts of the region, especially in countries where central governments are weak.
To meet these challenges, the panelists called for more coordination.
“Sahel countries are under obligation to come up with a platform for security cooperation,” said Aujjar, adding that “any national efforts to fight terrorism will not be efficient without a larger regional and international cooperation framework.”
Ana Gemma Martin Lopez, a Spanish professor of International Law, reiterated the need for cooperation in her presentation. She said that regional security frameworks are more efficient than international ones, adding that the United Nations has adopted a strategy to support regional and international initiatives to counter terrorism.
Aujjar stated that Morocco is well aware of the importance of international cooperation in countering terrorism, and Abdelhak El Khiam, the head of Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ), reiterated the kingdom’s commitment to join “efforts with other partners to make sure the danger of terrorism does not reach alarming levels.”
Highlighting Morocco’s reputation as a successful country in the fight against terrorism, El Khiam explained that the Kingdom’s approach is based on anticipation and prevention, as well as incorporating the religious dimension in countering the radical ideology.
El Khiam directed criticism at Algerian security forces, deploring the “lack of cooperation” on their part. He also brought up instability created by the Polisario Front, claiming that economic neglect of Front-controlled territories has led youth to look to terrorist organizations for support.
“The tragic situation in the Tindouf camps is making young Sahrawis prey to recruitment by criminal and terrorist organizations,” he said.
He added that Moroccan security services possess information about Polisario members joining the ranks of Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Unlike Algeria, the head of Moroccan FBI praised good coordination with other countries in the region and Europe, such as France, Belgium and Spain. “I would like to congratulate our Spanish partners for the level of our cooperation, which recently led to the dismantling of terrorist cells operation in both countries.”
A human rights approach
The panelists stressed that peace in the region cannot be achieved without respect of human rights and the law.
Martin Lopez explained that counter-terrorism measures cannot be effective unless they are implemented in total respect of human rights. This means that suspects must have the right to fair trial and that the law cannot be disregarded under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
“Non-respect of the law leads to abuse of power. This might in turn engender hatred and intolerance and provide radical organizations with opportunities for recruitment.”
The International Law professor provided the example of long detentions. She said they “might be useful in the short term, but in the long term it strengthens the detainees’ radical tendencies,” such as in the case of Guantanamo Bay.
She went on to praise Morocco’s experience in fighting terrorism, citing the kingdom’s ratification of 19 international human rights treaties.
Aujjar stated that “Morocco’s approach is based on fighting the terrorism threat in total respect of legal procedures and human rights.”
This approach, as he explained, is a result of the King Mohammed VI’s will to pursue the reforms initiated several years ago.
“Morocco’s reform project aims at safeguarding freedoms and rights. Right to life is the most basic of these rights, and it is that same right that is being targeted by terrorism.”