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Good Practices for Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Violent Extremist Offenders

Another GCTF document that offers guidelines for the treatment of terrorist offenders once they have been apprehended.

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Introduction Governments have been increasingly focused on developing more effective strategies to reduce the appeal of terrorism and limit the pool of potential recruits. By better understanding the radicalization process and why people become terrorists, and more broadly, the underlying conditions conducive to terrorism, it is possible to formulate the steps to take to counter violent extremist ideologies.

As part of the effort to counter violent extremism in all of its forms and manifestations, there is an increasing focus on prisons for several reasons. First, absent the appropriate and necessary safeguards, prisons may provide a "safe haven‟ where terrorists can network, compare and exchange tactics, recruit and radicalize new members, and even direct deadly operations outside the prison. Second, most imprisoned extremists will eventually be released. In order to reduce the likelihood that these individuals will return to terrorism after their release, it is essential to find ways to help them disengage from violent activities. Finally, while prisons have at times been environments where violent extremism has festered, the prison setting can also present opportunities for positive change – serving as a place where the tide of violent radicalism can be reversed. Prisoners live in a controlled environment, where the negative influences from their past which pushed them toward violent extremism can be minimized. They can instead be surrounded by persons who encourage them to pursue a more positive path. There are examples of individuals who entered prison as extremists, were rehabilitated and were then released as enthusiastic messengers against violent extremist philosophies.

In recognition of the fact that prisons can be incubators for violent extremist ideology or be institutions for reform, a number of governments from different regions have established prison-based rehabilitation programs. These programs are designed to rehabilitate violent extremists and reintegrate them back into society with a reduced risk of recidivism. This increase in the number of programs is a promising development and one that should be further encouraged, given the global and increasingly diffuse and decentralized nature of the threat. However, it is critical that States engaged in these efforts share information about their efforts with other interested States. While a one- size-fits-all approach is unlikely to work, knowing what other States have tried, whether at the national or local level, may be useful. Learning more about what has succeeded and what has failed and why can offer valuable lessons for governments as they work to build or improve their own programs.

Although programs must be tailored to the local conditions, cultures, and legal traditions, GCTF members have identified a series of non-binding good practices that can potentially serve as the foundation for States‟ policies and programs. All States are thus encouraged to consider the following list of recommended principles and good practices should they seek to strengthen existing or develop new programs or policies in this field, while recognizing that implementation of these practices must be consistent with applicable international law, as well as national law and regulations, taking into account the varied histories, cultures, and legal systems among States. As noted by the United Nations Counterterrorism Committee Executive Directorate in its Global Implementation Survey on the implementation of resolution 1624, rehabilitation programs “need to be considered carefully in view of their direct impact on fundamental rights, including the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and opinion, as well as the right to fair treatment in accordance with the rule of law.”

This is an issue of great interest to GCTF members. The GCTF‟s Rabat Memorandum on Good Practices for Effective Counterterrorism Practice in the Criminal Justice Sector (Rabat Memorandum encourages countries to “ensure that convicted terrorists are appropriately punished and develop policies for their incarceration and reintegration,” noting that “an effective system for incarcerating convicted terrorists is a critical part of an effective criminal justice response to terrorism.” The Rabat Memorandum goes on to state that “such a system should....prevent further radicalization of prisoners, prevent terrorist activities from being directed or supported from within the prison system, and provide for the deradicalization and reintegration of prisoners into society where possible and thereby reduce recidivism.” The GCTF‟s Southeast Asia Working Group has also covered this subject, with the inaugural meeting in March 2012 in Semarang, Indonesia, focused on the “Management and Custody of Terrorist Detainees in Prison.” Finally, the GCTF‟s CVE Working Group contributed to the development of the below good practices...

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