x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

UAE begins review of anti-terrorism law

The existing one was issued in 2004 and officials are looking at regulations against money laundering, which could be used for terrorism.

ABU DHABI // The UAE is reviewing its counter-terrorism law to better fight evolving threats and money laundering, the chief of the National Committee to Combat Terrorism said.

"The law was issued in 2004, and there are developments throughout these years that occurred, whether in international law or in the criminal methods that have been devised," said Dr Abdulrahim Alawadi, chairman of the counter-terrorism committee and the foreign minister's assistant for legal affairs.

"There have to be laws to comply with international obligations and to face the cases or criminal phenomena that have been devised during these years," he said.

In an interview this month, Dr Alawadi gave insights into the role and work of the committee, which is a small part of a large network that encompasses the country's counter-terrorism establishment.

The committee was created as part of the foreign ministry in a Cabinet decision in 2001.

Its role involves co-ordinating with international organisations, implementing counter-terrorism resolutions by international bodies like the UN Security Council, reviewing legislation to fight terrorism, and issuing recommendations on how these laws can be amended.

The UAE is a signatory to 13 international treaties on terrorism.

"There is no society that has no crime. Regardless of the laws you put in place, there will always be criminal minds that want to circumvent these laws," he said.

Dr Alawadi said the UAE was working to introduce recent changes in international regulations against money-laundering, which can be used to fund terrorism, into its laws.

Many of these regulations are already being implemented by the UAE's Central Bank, but need to be codified.

The law already implements 40 recommendations issued by the Financial Action Task Force, an inter-governmental body, on fighting terror financing and money laundering. Included in the recommendations are ensuring that banks screen applications properly, and alerting authorities to suspicious money transfers.

Nine new recommendations have been added to combat terrorism funding that deal with transferring money into and out of the country, limits on transfers and screening the people who do these transfers.

"We have to modernise our laws to incorporate these issues," he said.

"In the UAE, we are one of the most advanced countries in combating money laundering," said Dr Alawadi, who was involved in drafting money-laundering legislation.

"This does not mean there are no cases, there were cases that got to the courts and there are regulations that are being applied," he said.

Dr Theodore Karasik, the director of research and development at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said that money-laundering laws to curb terrorist financing in the UAE are "99 per cent efficient", but terrorists are increasingly using inexpensive methods that might not raise alarms.

Dr Alawadi said it was normal for an open country like the UAE to face risks, but its non-discriminatory policies and open environment also play a role in combating extremism in concert with security efforts.

Economic, social and employment policies and non-discrimination "are all reflected in people and makes you feel a part of this place and a sense of belonging and desire to protect the place, which is a sense that might be missing from other countries", he said.

There has been rising concern in the region over new methods being employed by terrorists.

Last month, police in Dubai and London intercepted bombs hidden in cargo that were bound for the US.

kshaheen@thenational.ae