Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 March 2019

Holes in Qatar’s terror dragnet raises PR fears

Not all involved in financing extremism have been designated despite Doha’s claims of compliance with US-led regional mechanism

Under pressure to demonstrate it is cracking down on the funding of terrorism, Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani met with US President Donald Trump last year. Evan Vucci / AP
Under pressure to demonstrate it is cracking down on the funding of terrorism, Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani met with US President Donald Trump last year. Evan Vucci / AP

Khalifa Al Subaiy has been listed by the UN as an active fundraiser for Al Qaeda, passing money from his Qatar base to its operations in Pakistan and elsewhere. He has even had his Twitter account shut down as a result of the accusations.

Yet when Qatar’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee last month published a list of 19 individuals and a handful of entities it had added to its terrorism list, Al Subaiy’s name was nowhere to be found.

On the list was Mubarak Al Ajji yet there was no mention of three other people who appeared on a flyer related to fundraising for extremist groups in Syria that was cited as the reason for Al Ajji’s inclusion. One of those named on the flyer, Jaber Al Marri is listed as an editorial writer for Doha’s Al Arab newspaper and was active on his Twitter feed on Wednesday.

Similarly there is no mention in the list of the other two men named on the circular.

Even those that were listed appear to have preserved facets of daily life. One of the most prominent, Abdul Rahman Al Nuaimi continues to possess a Facebook page since the announcement.

Qatar’s Minister of Interior presented the announcement as a major step by the country to meet its undertakings to the US Treasury when the US-GCC Terrorist Finance Targeting Centre (TFTC) was established last May. It has since asked for international cooperation to improve its compliance with the United Nations terrorist list, having come under pressure when the Arab quartet of nations announced a boycott of Doha last summer.

Matthew Levitt, a former US Treasury official who now works with the Washington Institute think tank, told The National that the TFTC is designed to be a mechanism that ensures the region tackles the flow of funds to extremist groups. How much progress Qatar has made under the memorandum of understanding has been questioned since the March announcement, particularly given clear United Nations resolutions.


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“Qatar can and should improve upon its core effort to stop illicit finance where it’s not been perceived as doing enough,” he said. “Certainly with these designations there were some omissions such as Al Subaiy, who not on the list, and that was curious because there is a UN obligation to follow up on its designations.”

The questions swirling around Qatar are two-fold. It not only selectively includes those facing allegations of extremist involved but it is also unclear if those listed will ever face justice.

“What are they doing to revisit prosecutions that have failed in the past? Even where they have tried to do the right thing this has not always worked where those accused have not been prosecuted effectively,” Mr Levitt said. “That Qatar is making some forward progress is obviously encouraging but there needs to be compliance with all UN designations full stop.”

Kyle Orton, a British researcher who has compiled reports on suspected terrorists based in Qatar, said the country’s Western security partners continue to pull their punches on the country’s record in return for case-by-case concessions from Doha.

That means that diplomats prefer to concentrate on small gains rather than taking a stand on the overall challenge facing Qatar.

“Qatar often pleads that the judiciary is independent and so deflects blame for lack of prosecutions with other measures, like some forms of internal exile or administrative restrictions,” he said. “Foreign officials will take comfort that the problem has been contained but in reality it can be some kind of public relations exercise. That means the US and others will be able to say ‘we’re dealing with it’.”

Ambitions the TFTC can become a standing mechanism for pursuing terrorists and financing of extremism are shared by Mr Levitt, who believes the US can use the framework to share expertise and boost enforcement throughout the region. “Hopefully the TFTC can become a bridging mechanism that strengthens regulatory bodies to carry out real investigations and enforce the laws in all the countries that are party to it,” he said.

Updated: April 12, 2018 11:43 AM



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