Strengthening respect for human rights in countering terrorism and violent extremism in West Africa’s coastal states
Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo
The challenge

West African coastal States are the new frontier for the expansion of terrorist groups in Africa, as the long-feared spillover from Sahel-based Security Council designated terrorist and other armed groups into the Gulf of Guinea has started materializing and is growing rapidly. Human rights shortcomings due to the actions of security forces and limitations of criminal justice systems have been identified in the region by UN human rights mechanisms and civil society organisations as prominent factors finally pushing individuals into terrorist and violent extremist groups in Africa. Conversely, security forces and justice systems can be part of the solution, and contribute to both responding to terrorism but also preventing it from spreading further.

The project

The project will attempt to use a pragmatic, problem-solving approach in which assistance will be tailored to the needs of the specific States and beneficiary agencies working on countering terrorism and violent extremism in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo, which can be quite different from one another. Technical assistance will be offered to relevant security forces on understanding and incorporating human rights in their counter-terrorism efforts, including through enhanced inter-agency cooperation where relevant. 

This will include sensitization to and training on the rules applying to the use of force. Trainings will focus not just on identifying and explaining relevant human rights norms, but also explaining why complying with these norms matter and can strengthen their work, and how to concretely do so in the context in which beneficiaries find themselves. Training documents or guidelines to help security forces incorporate human rights in counter-terrorism work will also be designed where relevant.

Assistance will be offered to allow for terrorist suspects to be effectively processed by the justice system in a manner that respects individual rights and international due process and fair trial standards, and be tailored to the actual needs of each Member State based on caseloads, length of pretrial detention and other relevant factors.

Support will also be offered to National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), to train local NHRI staff to engage with local security forces, or to increasingly engage on human rights issues in the context of counter-terrorism efforts, depending on which actions have the most chances of making an impact in view of the context of the Member State.

  • Consultations with relevant partners to refine understanding of the needs, goals, priorities and constraints of beneficiaries;
  • Outreach to ECOWAS Commission, Accra Initiative and other regional partners as relevant;
  • Technical assistance to relevant security forces incorporating human rights in their counter-terrorism efforts, via the most relevant methods: training, mentoring, development of material such as guidelines, increased inter-agency cooperation etc; 
  • Support to process criminal cases in a human rights-compliant manner; 
  • Support to NHRIs to engage security forces on CT and human rights; and
  • Consultations to ensure sustainability and transfer to national authorities of conveyed knowledge, tools and processes.
Expected impact

Medium-term impact: Security forces better comply with human rights in addressing terrorism and violent extremism and justice systems process terrorist cases in an efficient and human rights-compliant manner, which in turn will help States both comply with human rights obligations and have a greater impact against terrorism.

Longer-term impact: Concerned communities have greater faith in State responses to terrorism and violent extremism and are more resilient to the appeal of terrorist and violent extremist narratives and groups; human rights are better upheld.

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