x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Role of international anti-terror centre in Abu Dhabi outlined

The new international centre to combat extremism and terrorism cannot be abused or break the country's laws, legislation passed to the FNC reveals.

ABU DHABI // The role, mandate and make-up of an international counter-extremism centre based in Abu Dhabi have been outlined publicly for the first time.

The Hedayah (guidance) Centre, a think tank studying the roots of extremism and terrorism, will be financed by Global Counterterrorism Forum member countries and will create shared databases.

The facility - near the intersection of Bani Yas and Najda Street - will carry out research into violent extremism and how to combat it, and evaluate the research of other bodies. It will make presentations on its findings and conduct workshops, lectures, and seminars "in the field". A 15-article bill spelling out the centre's mandate was passed to the Federal National Council last week for study, following its approval by the Cabinet last month.

The facility will be independent from the Government in terms of financing and administration, and it will not be allowed to interfere in the country's internal affairs.

The bill makes clear that as the centre is international, the UAE will not be responsible for illegal practices committed by its staff or activists in the course of their work, but states it will still "fall under jurisdiction of UAE laws and is not allowed to perform any acts that breach laws of the UAE or contradict its interests".

While not mentioned in the articles passed to the FNC, heads of the centre have previously said they would find ways to support victims of terrorism by working with academics and religious and community leaders.

According to the bill, the facility will need to coordinate with the media and work with both the public and private sectors.

"The centre aims to create common ground for dialogue, exchange of views and cooperation among nations and national and international specialised centres to combat international terrorism," the council said.

The centre will have at least 10 board members, two of whom will be senior local government officials. The others, who will also be public figures, will be chosen by the Global Counter Terrorism Forum.

The executive director of the centre must be an Emirati.

The law still needs to be debated in an FNC session and passed by the President, Sheikh Khalifa, before its publication in the official gazette. It will pass into force the day after publication.

Although the bill is yet to be passed, the centre has been in operation since December, when the Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, said it would counter violent extremism by addressing radicalisation in jails and by guiding school curricula.

When the Cabinet passed the law, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said the country had adopted an open, moderate and tolerant approach as a state and rejected extremism.

"Extremism is religiously and morally unacceptable," he said previously. "International cooperation is needed to confront it and the UAE will remain a key partner."

An explanatory document from the government that accompanied the bill said the centre was set up to honour a pledge made during the Global Counterterrorism Forum held in New York in 2011.

osalem@thenational.ae