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Counter terror frameworks must be sans infringement of democratic rights: Panelists

Panelists at a forum titled From Counterterrorism to Recovery Lessons from International Experience

Panelists at a forum titled ‘From Counterterrorism to Recovery: Lessons from International Experience’ have emphasized that counter terror frameworks must ensure that they do not infringe unnecessarily on democratic rights. Greater efforts are needed to distinguish terrorist combatants from civilians to prevent justice from being carried out arbitrarily.

This was revealed at a panel discussion organized by the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI), in partnership with the US Embassy.

Panelists stated that man-made terror attacks – like natural disasters – are extreme events and their frequency appears to be rising globally. Examples of highly coordinated attacks include 9/11 in the US in 2001, the Bali Bombings in 2002, 7/7 attacks in London in 2005, and the Paris attacks in 2015.

They stated that Sri Lanka was hit by the Easter Sunday attacks this April. This tragic experience brought home a stark truth. Quite apart from the immediate impact of death and destruction, terror attacks also have lasting effects which fundamentally disrupt economy, politics and society. They were just beginning to unravel the interlinked nature of terror-induced disruptions and explore ways of healing democratic societies. The overarching message was that countries must respond with a comprehensive national response that involves an integrated set of security, governance and development policies.

They went on that US and North African experiences of combating global terror since 9/11 suggest that success requires a soft and hard approach. The hard approach should focus on strengthening law enforcement, intelligence gathering and sharing, and closer coordination between border control agencies. The soft approach requires close engagement with community leaders to prevent radicalisation, mobilisation and recruitment, particularly of at-risk youth. Greater efforts are needed to distinguish terrorist combatants from civilians to prevent justice from being carried out arbitrarily. The experiences of Ireland and South Africa suggest this must be accompanied by political, economic and social policies to address the root causes of violent extremism and radicalisation.

They added terrorist attacks can have a significant negative economic impact, such as in Bali. To ensure economies are resilient to unexpected shocks, such as terrorist attacks, effective business continuity plans need to be in place for key economic institutions. What’s more, it is crucial that sufficient macroeconomic buffers are maintained to ensure fiscal and monetary policies can respond to shocks and ensure debt repayments.

The panel comprised Rand Corporation Senior Behavioral Scientist Dr. Todd C. Helmus; US State Department Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism Regional and Multilateral Affairs Deputy Coordinator John T. Godfrey; UN former Under-Secretary General and Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy; and Central Bank of Sri Lanka Senior Deputy Governor Dr. P. Nandalal Weerasinghe.

The discussion was moderated by LKI Executive Director Dr. Ganeshan Wignaraja, and the closing remarks were delivered by Ambassador Alaina B. Teplitz. Ambassador Teplitz stressed the importance of trust building, respect for the rule of law, and the need for political courage to combat extremism.


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