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A Handbook for Parliamentarians A


Author: Phil Gurski


The Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies would like to
thank the Robert Bosch Stiftung for providing financial support for the Milan
Forum for Parliamentary Action in Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass
Atrocities and for the design and publication of this handbook.

The analysis and recommendations included in this handbook do not

necessarily reflect the views of Parliamentarians for Global Action, the
Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, the Robert
Bosch Stiftung or any of the PGA Forum participants, but rather draws
upon the major strands of discussion put forward at the event and during
subsequent research and analysis conducted by the author, Phil Gurski.
Participants neither reviewed nor approved this document. Therefore, it
should not be assumed that every participant or collaborating organization
subscribes to all of its recommendations, observations, and conclusions.
Preface ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������iv
Chapter 1. Introduction �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 1
When terrorism and mass atrocities converge 5
The ‘foreign fighter’ phenomenon 7
The role of social media 8
Chapter 2. Terminology�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 9
Definitions ����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 9
Chapter 3. Radicalization and Mobilization ������������������������������������������������������12
What causes radicalization? 12
What do we know about the transition
from radicalization to mobilization? 14
Chapter 4. Principles and best practices of CVE and PVE������������������������������� 16
Community engagement and CVE are not the same thing 16
What are the overarching goals of CE? 17
General Principles of CVE 18
Where should CVE end up? 18
The 5-step CE/CVE model 19
Chapter 5. Other efforts linked to CVE/PVE����������������������������������������������������� 21
Proliferation of weapons 21
Use of child soldiers as weapon of war 21
Chapter 6. When CVE/PVE is insufficient or ineffective:
international action against non-state actors ������������������������������� 23
Chapter 7. Justice as preventive and punitive tool ����������������������������������������� 25
Chapter 8. The role of parliamentarians in PVE/CVE
and mass atrocity prevention �������������������������������������������������������� 27
Supplementary Reading List���������������������������������������������������������������������������� 30
Appendix One Major Islamist extremist attacks since 9/11 31
Appendix Two Indicators of Islamist extremist radicalization 34
Appendix Three International CVE Programs 35
Appendix Four IACP 5-step CE/CVE model 42
Appendix Five Milan Plan of Action on Preventing Violent Extremism
and Mass Atrocities������������������������������������������������������������ 44
At a time when violent extremism and mass atrocity crimes appear
to be on the rise, national governments, international and regional
organizations are struggling to protect populations from grave
human rights abuses.

Motivated by the need to address these challenges, Parliamentarians

for Global Action (PGA), in partnership with the Montreal Institute
of Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) at Concordia
University and the Stanley Foundation, organized the Milan Forum
for Parliamentary Action in Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass
Atrocities on 27-28 November 2017 in Milan, Italy.

The Milan Forum sought to bring together parliamentarians, civil

society members and experts from around the globe to educate,
sensitize and mobilize legislators, and encourage them to adopt
effective policies to protect civilians from mass atrocities and con-
front the ideology of violent extremism. The Milan Forum included
presentations by legislators, academics, civil society groups and UN
experts, including Ms. Virginia Gamba, Under-Secretary-General
& Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children
and Armed Conflict, and Mr. Ivan Simonovic, Assistant-Secretary-
General & Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General on the
Responsibility to Protect.

Participants acknowledged that extremist ideolo-

gies are being used to justify mass atrocity crimes
educate against civilians and that the threat needs to be
confronted in a holistic and multidimensional way,
sensitize not just through governments and the military. In
line with the leadership shown by PGA in the field of
mobilize International Criminal Justice, the Milan Forum was
centered on justice, truth-finding and remedies for
encourage victims under the Rule of Law as crucial elements of
any viable strategy and policy aimed at addressing
mass atrocity crimes.

iv Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities

Interactive sessions sought to develop action-oriented strategies
in specific areas of legislative, policy-making and parliamentary-
oversight intervention. A wide range of diverse region-specific
examples were presented, each reflecting efforts already under-
taken by policymakers to prevent mass atrocities and the urgent
need for more concrete multi-dimensional action. While discussions
demonstrated broad agreement on the need for cooperation, atten-
dees reflected on obstacles to consistent collective action.

Parliamentarians concluded the Milan Forum by adopting the

Milan Plan of Action on Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass
Atrocities, which recognizes the threat posed by violent extremism
and presents a set of concrete legislative and political strategies
that parliamentarians can take to prevent mass atrocity crimes and
combat violent extremism, and protect populations from the gravest
violations of human rights.

This handbook should be seen as both complementary to the Milan

Forum and a product written in large part based on the discussions
that took place during the forum. The Milan Plan of Action can be
found in Appendix Four.

Convening Organizations
Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) is the largest
non-governmental, cross-party, international network of individual
legislators with approximately 1,400 members in 143 parliaments
around the world. PGA mobilizes parliamentarians as human rights
champions committed to promoting the rule of law, democracy,
human security, non-discrimination and gender equality. The
organization’s vision is to contribute to the creation of a rules-based
international order for a more equitable, safe and democratic world.

All individual members of PGA are invited to the annual forum of

the organization. While in 2017 the 39th forum was held in Milan,
Italy, on the prevention of violent extremism and mass atrocities,
the 40th annual forum shall take place in Kiev, Ukraine, and shall
coincide with the 10th Consultative Assembly of Parliamentarians for
the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Rule of Law, a project
that PGA launched in Ottawa, Canada, at its 24th annual forum.

A Handbook for Parliamentarians v

The Stanley Foundation advances multilateral action to create fair,
just, and lasting solutions to critical issues of peace and security.
The foundation’s work is built on a belief that greater international
cooperation will improve global governance and enhance global
citizenship. The organization values its Midwestern roots and family
heritage as well as its role as a nonpartisan, private operating
foundation. The foundation’s current work includes specific actions
toward policy change in the issue areas of nuclear policy, mass
violence and atrocities and climate change.

The Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies

(MIGS) at Concordia University is recognized internationally as
Canada’s leading research and advocacy institute for the pre-
vention of genocide, mass atrocity crimes and violent extremism.
MIGS conducts in-depth research and proposes concrete policy
recommendations to resolve conflicts before they degenerate into
mass atrocity crimes. MIGS has achieved national and international
recognition for its role as an idea and leadership incubator working
with policymakers, academics, leading research institutions, and
the media. Today, MIGS is Canada’s leading voice and international
partner on threats to human security.

Participants including Parliamentarians and representatives from civil society and international organizations
gather for the 39 th Annual Forum of Parliamentarians for Global Action in Milan, Italy. Photo: Brian Kett/PGA

vi Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities


Violent extremism/terrorism and mass atrocities – at times the

two threats are one and the same – can happen anywhere.

Those inspired by ideas to engage in Terrorists are not fans of debate and
serious violence or hatred for iden- discussion: as Al Qaeda founder
tified groups of people based on Abdallah Azzam once said “Jihad and
race, religion, sexuality and gender the rifle alone: no negotiations, no
have carried out acts of terrorism conferences, no discussions”.
and mass violence for decades if not
Some terrorist groups also target
centuries. The underlying ideas have
children in their campaigns of vio-
changed over time but the results are
lence. In some instances, children are
the same: deaths, injuries, atrocities
forced to join groups as child soldiers
on a grand scale, physical damages
or as sex slaves/domestic servants
and trauma. Societies have great
(e.g. Nigeria’s Boko Haram). In others,
interest in preventing these acts and in
children are targeted for killing (e.g.
intervening before individuals become
the Taliban in Afghanistan which has
violent extremists.
not only killed children but forced the
Many terrorist groups are little different closing of schools).
than those who engage in genocidal
In many cases violent extremists
acts. Terrorist organizations such as
have increasingly engaged in the
Islamic State1 (IS) are genocidal if
destruction of UNESCO cultural
we take their messaging and propa-
heritage sites in an effort to erase
ganda as indicative of their actual
the identity of other groups. In recent
goals: an end to democracy, pluralism,
years extremists have destroyed
diversity and multiculturalism through
ancient Sufi mosques and libraries
the violent imposition of a religious
in Timbuktu, Mali, while IS members
mono-culture, which translates into
attempted to destroy the ancient city
a totalitarian organization of society.
of Palmyra in Syria.

The Islamic State is also referred to as ISIS and Daesh and can be used interchangeably.

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 1

Even the United Nations has been We are in the era of the fourth, or
directly targeted by extremist groups. religious, wave of terrorism. It is char-
The UN’s main office in Iraq was delib- acterized by mass casualty attacks
erately attacked in 2003, with scores (most notably 9/11) and is often asso-
of people killed, including Special ciated with what is known as ‘Islamist
Representative in Iraq, Sérgio Vieira extremism’, although there are also
de Mello. The UN’s office in Algiers, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish,
Algeria, was then attacked in 2007. and Sikh religious extremist groups as
The UN’s office in Abjua. Nigeria, was well (the single largest act of terrorism
attacked in 2011 with similar casu- prior to 9/11 was the bombing of an Air
alty rates. In present day Mali, UN India flight in 1985 plotted by Canada-
peacekeepers have come under direct based Sikh terrorists – the first crimes
attacks by extremist groups. against humanity case before the
permanent International Criminal Court
While terrorism and atrocities are not
in 2005 regarded the atrocities com-
new phenomena, it is useful to discuss
mitted by the Lord’s Resistance Army
the particular brand of terrorism that
leader, Mr. Joseph Kony of Northern
is both predominant today and also
Uganda, who described himself as the
closely tied to acts of mass vio-
son of Jesus Christ). It is important to
lence. Taking the last 150 years as
acknowledge that not all terrorism in
a framework, the US scholar David
the latter stages of the 20th and early
Rapoport identified four major ‘waves’
part of the 21st centuries is religious
of terrorism: the anarchist wave (from
in nature. Even if past waves have
the mid- to late-19th century into the
peaked there are still individuals and
1920s), the anti-colonial wave (in the
groups that adhere to the philosophies
post WWI period to the 1960s), the
and ideologies of earlier ones. For
new-left wave (1960s to the 1990s) and
instance, in 1995 the anti-government
the current religious wave (1979 to the
conspiracy theorist Timothy McVeigh
present). Each wave had its own char-
killed 168 people when he placed a
acteristics and level of lethality: in the
truck bomb outside a federal building
anarchist wave alone, a Russian Tsar,
in Oklahoma City.
a Spanish Prime Minister, French and
US presidents, and Portuguese and Nevertheless, the current wave is
Italian kings were killed. Many also not only the most deadly today but
consider the assassination of Austro- by far the most recognizable and
Hungarian Archduke Ferdinand, the the one that has received the most
act that led to the outbreak of WW1, attention, ranging from military and
as ‘propaganda of the deed’, the law enforcement/security intelli-
anarchists’ modus operandi. gence agencies, to efforts to prevent

2 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities

radicalization to violence at one end, preventing violent Islamist extremism,
to the de-radicalization of former although the best practices identified
terrorists at the other. In this light, this here may be applicable to other forms
handbook will focus exclusively on of violent extremism.

Table 1: Major Islamist extremist attacks since 9/112

Group Casualties
Date Location MO (if known) (dead, wounded)
2001 09 11 New York, Hijacked aircraft Al Qaeda 2,996 d 6,000+ w
2002 10 12 Bali, Indonesia Bombings in Al Qaeda 202 d 240 w
night clubs
2002 10 23 Moscow Arms, explosives Chechen extremists 170 d 700+ w
in a theatre
2004 03 11 Madrid Explosives on trains Al Qaeda 192 d 2050 w
2004 09 Beslan, North Explosives, arms Chechen extremists 385 d 783 w
1-3 Ossetia, in a school siege
2005 07 07 London Explosives in subways Al Qaeda 53 d 700+ w
2006 07 11 Mumbai Explosives on trains Lashkar-e-Taiba 209 d 700+ w
2007 08 14 Qahtaniyah, Suicide bombers unknown 500+ d 1,500+w
2008 11 26 Mumbai Arms, explosives Lashkar-e-Taiba 166 d 308 w
in hotels
2010 05 10 Iraq Suicide bombers, Al Qaeda in Iraq? 100+ d 350+ w
2011 01 Iraq Arms, suicide bombers Al Qaeda in Iraq 137 d 230+ w
2011 10 04 Mogadishu Suicide bombing Al Shabaab 100 d 110+ w
2012 05 21 Sana’a, Yemen Suicide bombing Al Qaeda in the 120+ d 250+ w
Arabian Peninsula
2012 08 16 Iraq Suicide bombing, arms Al Qaeda? 128 d 417 w

A short description of each attack is provided in Appendix 1.

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 3

continued: Table 1: Major Islamist extremist attacks since 9/11
Group Casualties
Date Location MO (if known) (dead, wounded)
2012 09 12 Baghdad Suicide bombing arms Islamic State of Iraq 108 d 371 w
2013 01 10 Quetta, Suicide bombing, United Baloch Army, 130 d 270 w
Pakistan explosives Lashkar-e-Jhangvi
2014 02 14 Borno State, Arms, knives Boko Haram 121 d
2014 08 Syria Arms, knives Islamic State 700+ d
2014 11 28 Kano, Nigeria Suicide bombing Boko Haram 120 d 260 w
2015 04 15 Kenya Arms Al Shabaab 147 d
2015 10 10 Ankara, Turkey Bombs Islamic State 129 d 500+ w
2015 11 13 Paris Arms Islamic State 137 d 368 w
2016 07 03 Baghdad Explosives Islamic State 300 d 221+ w
2017 10 14 Mogadishu Truck bomb Al Shabaab 587 d 316 w

It is also important to bear in mind media attention devoted to terrorism

that there are other forms of mass and the billions of dollars spent over
casualty events that have little or the past two decades to deal with it
nothing to do with terrorism. The 1994 (identifying and thwarting terrorists,
genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, incarceration, rehabilitation, etc.) are
the Armenian genocide of 1916, the unlikely to diminish soon, thus justify-
Ukrainian Holodomor under Stalin in ing a more comprehensive approach
1932-33 and the WWII Holocaust are to the problem.
but some examples. If we look merely
at the number of dead and wounded
in these atrocities and compare Table 2:
the figures with deaths and injuries Major mass atrocity crimes since 1900
resulting from terrorism since 9/11 it Place Year(s) Number killed
is abundantly clear that the former
Germany 1939-1945 12 million
vastly outweigh the latter (see Table 2).
It is thus perhaps more crucial to Turkey 1915-1920 2.5 million
ensure that we, as a world community, Cambodia 1975-79 1.7 million
put into place mechanisms to pre- Biafra (Nigeria) 1967-70 1 million
vent mass atrocity events more than Rwanda 1994 800,000
terrorist events. Nevertheless, the

4 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities

Secondly, it must be noted that terror- majority against the Muslim minority in
ism and violent extremism, contrary to certain countries with the objective of
what many believe, do not constitute fostering civil conflict.
an ‘existential threat’ for most coun-
In other countries – Canada, Australia,
tries. In some countries – Somalia,
Italy, Singapore – terrorism remains a
Nigeria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan
very infrequent scourge. Even in areas
comprise the five nations that have
with frequent attacks, however, many
suffered the most attacks and cas-
more people die from events (weath-
ualties since 2001 – terrorist attacks
er-related, homicide, etc.) that have
are an almost daily event, and in the
nothing to do with terrorism. We ignore
case of the first four above-mentioned
this fact at our peril. If we accord too
countries the use of terrorism can be
much weight to terrorism and take
essentially characterized as a tool
resources away from other more
of war-making, given the prevailing
serious threats we not only waste
situation of armed conflict in their terri-
money on lesser evils but fail to spend
tories. Thousands of people have been
enough on greater ones. It is best to
killed and tens of thousands of people
see terrorism as a challenge that must
injured over the past two decades in
be confronted on several levels using
terrorist incidents, which very often
several types of tools but bear in mind
have met the gravity threshold of war
that other forms of violence, whether
crimes or crimes against humanity,
organised or random, have always led
and the economic costs are probably
to more deaths and injuries.
immeasurable but undoubtedly very
high. Non-state actors took over entire
cities, with IS taking over Marawi in the When terrorism and
Philippines and Mosul in Iraq, creating mass atrocities converge
large scale humanitarian disasters and
The recent reign of terror known as
forced displacement, and the subse-
‘Islamic State’ in Iraq and Syria is
quent near total destruction of these
a prime example of how a terrorist
urban centres.
group can engage in acts of mass
Western Europe has seen an increase atrocity/genocide. In response to
in deadly terrorist attacks and has those who claim that the problems
witnessed a rise of far right anti-immi- posed by IS are counter-terrorism
grant and anti-Islam movements and issues, Professor Alex Bellamy writes:
politicians. IS has made it clear that “that view mistakes the nature of the
it is using violence to try and turn the organization’s violence” and overlooks
the reality that terrorism - understood

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 5

particular has been labeled by many
as a genocide. There are no reliable
estimates for the number of victims of
IS violence.

Commenting on the rise of religious

extremism and the link between
atrocities, the Nobel prize winning
author Wole Soyinka made the
following observation: “The current
travail of the Nigerian nation is neither
Cash-strapped Chad is hosting tens of thousands of unique, nor unpredicted. The virus of
people made homeless by the Boko Haram insurgency. intolerance, injected from childhood,
Photo: Ashley Hamer/IRIN
soon graduates into a deadly impulse
towards the elimination of the desig-
as violence internationally targeted nated outsider, wherever intolerance is
against civilians - is itself often a crime permitted the status of the sacrosanct,
against humanity.”3 Indeed, the self- and privileged over other component
styled ‘state’ created what it called a units of society. This has often proved
‘Caliphate’ and engaged in the slaugh- the destiny of theocracies, even of the
ter of a number of identified groups: putative, wishful kind. Sooner or later it
Yazidis, Christians, Shia Muslims and becomes a killing machine over which
any other Muslims who did not share the erstwhile banner that reads ‘Killing
their aberrant interpretation of Islam. is Believing’ is replaced with ‘Not
As Bellamy writes, “theirs is a doctrine Killing is Damnation.’” 4
of selective extermination structur-
The definition of genocide in the Rome
ally similar to others we have seen
Statute of the International Criminal
in the past such as those espoused
Court (1998), which mirrors the one of
by the Nazis, the Khmer Rouge and
the Genocide Convention (1948), is:
other murderous regimes.” ISIS’
acts of violence included mass rape, “Any of the following acts committed
beheadings, burning people alive, with intent to destroy, in whole or in
drowning and other forms of execu- part, a national, ethnical, racial or
tion. Their singling out of the Yazidi in religious group, as such:

Alex Bellamy “The Islamic State and the case for Responsibility to Protect,” Open Canada April 20,
2018. Available at:
Wole Soyinka “My Nigeria, paying the wages of appeasement” Open Canada October 15, 2015.
Available at:

6 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities

• Killing members of the group; want their citizens who fought with IS
to return to their home countries. As
• C
 ausing serious bodily or mental
the UN has noted:
harm to members of the group;
• D
 eliberately inflicting on the group “They increase the intensity, duration,
conditions of life calculated to bring and complexity of conflicts and may
about its physical destruction in constitute a serious danger to their
whole or in part; States of origin, transit, destination,
as well as neighboring zones of armed
• Imposing measures intended to
conflict in which they are active. The
prevent births within the group;
Foreign terrorist fighter (FTF) threat
• F
 orcibly transferring children of the is evolving rapidly changing and is
group to another group.” unlikely to be fully contained in the
short term. A significant longer-term
The ‘foreign fighter’ phenomenon risk is posed by FTFs returning to their
countries of origin or upon their arrival
Another aspect of IS that contributed
in third countries.”5
to mass atrocity crimes, was the influx
of what has been called the ‘foreign a. The international nature of IS has
fighter’ phenomenon, demonstrating created several legal problems:
the transnational nature of extremism.
b. Which state has jurisdiction over
Upwards of 40,000 individuals from
the crimes committed by IS terror-
over 100 countries traveled to Iraq and
ists in Iraq and Syria?
Syria to join IS and some of the foreign
terrorists carried out some of the c. Do these states recognize
worst human rights violations. Many human rights?
foreign fighters have died in exchan- d. Is there enough evidence to bring
ges with the Syrian and Iraqi armies these people to trial?
and their allies but many have survived
e. Are there enough extradition
and moved on to other IS affiliates
treaties in place to send foreign
around the world. Many others have
nationals back?
been arrested and are awaiting trial:
some have been found guilty and have f. Can we get over the emotional
been sentenced to death. Several horror of IS atrocities to deal with
nations have stated that they do not these terrorists through the rule of
law and abiding by international
human rights’ conventions?

United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee, “Foreign Terrorist Fighters,”
August 17, 2017. Available at:

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 7

The Milan Forum emphasized, how- Parliamentarians can become a
ever, that states have a responsibility partner in raising awareness about the
to prosecute their foreign fighters who need for justice by putting pressure
committed crimes in Iraq and Syria. on governments to act and by press-
Iraqi MPs present at the Milan Forum ing for the referral of situations by the
were particularly adamant on this UN Security Council. They can push
matter. The prosecution of individ- for countries to both accede to the
uals for committing crimes against Rome Statute and to try the accused
humanity and war crimes in the past in national courts, as well as to accept
two decades has taken huge strides the jurisdiction of the ICC even before
forwards thanks to the tribunals for accession or ratification of the Statute.
Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone
and the creation of the permanent
The role of social media
ICC. They have brought justice to the
victims and undermined the impunity While the advent of the Internet and
that has permitted perpetrators to act social media platforms has enabled
without consequences. However, the the vast exchange of information and
ICC has its weaknesses, particularly enhanced international trade, they
due to the limits to its jurisdiction have also vastly enabled terrorist
whether temporal or territorial, while groups and the distribution of hate
its advantages rely upon its comple- material that can foster mass atrocities
mentarity to domestic jurisdictions and and possibly genocides. The informa-
its potential to deliver universal justice tion posted is next to impossible to
based on the principle of equality control or regulate despite efforts to
before the law. enact legislation and best practices to
eliminate it as soon as it is identified.
Terrorist groups use online platforms
to make claims for attacks, attract new
recruits and create propaganda that
calls for violence against named ethnic
or faith groups. Followers consume
this material and can be inspired
by it to plan and execute atrocities
and mass violence. There is tension
between principles of free speech and
the use of social media by extremist
groups and different jurisdictions
follow different rules.
Photo: Amancay Maahs

8 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities


The old phrase ‘one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terror-
ist’ sums up the problem surrounding any discussion on terrorism
and violent extremism.

Definitions Terrorism: any act of serious violence

that is motivated primarily by actors
Different words and phrases mean dif-
for ideological, religious or political
ferent things to different people. Alex
reasons (NB for some, the act has to
Schmid, a fellow at the Netherlands-
target civilians as well).
based International Centre for Counter
Terrorism (ICCT), noted in 1988 that Violent extremism: violent extremism
there were 109 scholarly definitions for is close in meaning to terrorism and
terrorism.6 A similar lack of consensus the two terms will be considered
plagues terms such as radicalization, synonymous in this handbook.
de-radicalization and countering vio-
lent extremism. Radicalization: the transition from
normative, mainstream beliefs to
To provide context to the discussion in radical ones. Note that radicalization
this handbook the following definitions does not inherently lead to violence.
are given below. They are not intended Many movements once considered
to be prescriptive or comprehen- ‘radical’ are now mainstream (e.g.
sive, but are general enough to allow female suffrage or gay rights)
for understanding and debate. As a
result, they will serve as a scaffold on Violent radicalization: the transition
which to continue the conversation in from normative, mainstream beliefs
this handbook. to radical ones that also endorse
or demand the use of violence to
impose one’s beliefs on others.

Alex P. Schmid and Albert J. Jongman, Political Terrorism: A New Guide to Actors, Authors,
Concepts, Databases, Theories, and Literature (Amsterdam: Transaction , 1988).

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 9

Mobilization: the move from violent that share a common rhetorical
radical ideology to violent action. desire to resolve a conflict by
Not every individual who radicalizes establishing audience expectations
to violence elects to act violently. according to the known trajectories
of its literary and rhetorical form.” 7
Counter Terrorism (CT): Efforts by the
Narratives constrain how we view
State to identify and neutralize those
the world, our place in it and often
seeking to recruit terrorists, create
our responses to challenges. For
and distribute terrorist messaging,
instance, the Islamist extremist nar-
finance terrorism and plan acts
rative (sometimes called the ‘Single
of terrorism.
Narrative’) states that a) Islam is
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): under attack by the West and b)
the effort to counter violent extremist ‘true’ Muslims (as defined by violent
individuals, groups and messaging. extremists) have a divine duty to
CVE applies when radicalization defend Islam from its enemies.
to violence has already begun but
Counter Narrative: Efforts to
mobilization has yet to occur.
undermine the narrative created by
Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE): Islamist extremists by critically pick-
while many conflate PVE with CVE, ing apart the component parts of the
PVE strictly speaking refers to Single Narrative.
efforts to develop programs that
Alternative Narrative: Efforts to
divert individuals from starting down
construct an independent (and
the road to violent extremism and
superior) narrative to that of the
terrorism by addressing problems
Islamist extremists by members of
associated in part with the radical-
the greater community that does
ization to violence continuum (see
not pay overt attention to the Single
below) and by providing guidance on
Narrative but seeks to provide an
alternative framework to guide
Narrative: According to Halverson, people (especially young people)
Goodall Jr. and Corman, a narrative in a way consistent with the main-
is “a coherent system of interrelated stream, normative views of Islam (or
and sequentially organized stories Judaism, Hinduism, etc.).

Jeffrey R. Halverson, H. L. Goodall, Jr. and Steven R. Corman Master Narratives of Islamist
Extremism Palgrave MacMillan (New York: 2013) pg 14.

10 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities

Early intervention: CVE efforts to Mass atrocity crimes: violence
divert an individual from the path to directed at civilian populations
violent extremism before it becomes including genocide, crimes against
entrenched and hence a counter humanity and serious war crimes,
terrorism issue. including ethnic cleansing. In light of
the immense sufferings and losses
De-radicalization: programs designed
caused by armed conflict, the notion
to convince individuals who have
of atrocity crimes may be expanded
become terrorists to abandon the
to include crimes against the peace,
ideology or ideas associated with
as defined in the Nuremberg Statute
terrorist groups or movements.
and Judgement, or crime of aggres-
Disengagement: programs designed sion, as defined in the amended
to convince individuals who have Rome Statute of the ICC.
become terrorists to no longer
engage with terrorist groups or
movements but who have not neces-
sarily abandoned those ideologies.

A child’s painting from Swat, Pakistan. Photo: Kamila Hyat/IRIN

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 11

Radicalization and Mobilization

What causes radicalization?

The push and pull factors that can lead to radicalization vary greatly:
they are region- and context-specific, and the patterns and causes
vary from person to person.

Nonetheless, experts present at The third central component is

the Milan Forum agreed that three mobilization: local social networks
elements are usually present. First, and relationships that connect poten-
real or perceived macro-and/or micro tial extremist to others are crucial.
grievances play a major role in leading Furthermore, participants agreed
individuals to join extremist groups that violent extremists have weapon-
and commit crimes. This can include ized the internet, which they use as a
discrimination and marginalization, tool to disseminate and amplify their
lack of socio-economic opportunities hateful propaganda, radicalize and
and education, and poor governance. recruit fighters, thereby connecting to
potential militants faster and easier.
Secondly, ideologies play a crucial role
in making sense of real or perceived A variety of academics, experts and
grievances. Extremist groups frame others have proffered explanations for
and weaponize grievances in such a why people adopt radical and violent
way that it creates a sense of victim- radical views and why some translate
hood that will eventually legitimize those views into acts of terrorism. In
the use of violence. Most participants truth, many if not all of these explana-
agreed that, at this point in time, totali- tions suffer from short term study and
tarian approaches and interpretations small data sets. Theories are often put
of religion is one of the main ideolo- forward that claim to account for why
gies used by extremists to achieve radicalization occurs with little to no
their ends. peer review or empirical analysis. It
should be obvious that it is impossible
to construct a social or psychological

12 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities

experiment where one group is radical- • Search for Significance (my efforts
ized to violence and a second control at achievement have been thwarted
group is not. The underlying challenge and I can only achieve meaning
is that since terrorism remains a rare through membership in a violent
event in any given area it will be difficult extremist group)
if not impossible to determine with any • Mental illness (all terrorists suffer
degree of certainty universal principles from mental illness)
or causes of radicalization to violence.
• Historical/current geopolitical
These challenges have nevertheless conflict
not stopped some from proposing
Each of these can be shown to be
overly general theories. Some of these
inadequate by demonstrating that any
can be summarized as:
one is plagued by the generation of
• Relative deprivation (you have more false positives and false negatives.
than I do and I want what you have) For example, if we apply the ‘mental
illness’ criterion we find that many
• Marginalization/Disenfranchisement/
people who do in fact suffer from
Alienation (I feel that I am not part
mental illness never become terrorists
of society and it is you that are pre-
(false positives) while many who go to
venting me from becoming so)

From right to left: Dr. David Donat Cattin, PGA Secretary-General; Prof. Lorenzo Vidino, Director,

Program on Extremism; Head, Programme on Radicalization, George Washington University, Washington
DC; Mr. Kyle Matthews, Executive Director,  Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies;
Ms. Virginia Gamba, Under-Secretary-General; Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children
and Armed Conflict, United Nations. Photo: Brian Kett/PGA

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 13

commit acts of violent extremism do interpret an issue or social problem”.8
not suffer from obvious (or diagnosed) The ‘diagnostic frame’ is created in
mental illness (false negatives). which the problem/enemy is identified
and a consensus is found, the ‘prog-
It is not that these theories have
nostic frame’ provides a solution to
nothing useful to say about the rad-
the grievance, and the ‘motivational
icalization problem. Each in its own
frame’ suggest how an individual
way makes a contribution to a general
can act and gives an argument for it.
understanding of some of the circum-
Followers, who can be anywhere on
stances and factors at play in some
the ideological spectrum depending
cases. In the end, however, none are
on the nature of the grievance, are told
universal or generalizable in a mean-
that they are part of the solution to
ingful way. They are not predictive and
the problem.
cannot be used by a variety of actors
(states, law enforcement agencies, Despite a lack of comprehensive
faith leaders, families and friends, and understanding there are nonethe-
communities) to determine whom to less frequent, observable signs that
watch (or whom to want authorities indicate that an individual is heading
about). It is often said that the rad- down the path to violent radicalization
icalization process is an individual, (while at the same time not necessarily
idiosyncratic one and this appears predictive in nature). These signs are
to be true. With such a degree of listed in Appendix Two.
variability it is not surprising that we
cannot design a theory that accounts
What do we know about the
for (much less predicts) radicalization.
transition from radicalization
As an Italian scholar told the Milan to mobilization?
Forum, ‘radicalizers’ (i.e. those that
As noted above, radicalization in itself
radicalize people: the term self-rad-
is not necessarily a problem: on the
icalization is inaccurate and should
contrary it has contributed to benefi-
be avoided) make critical use of
cial changes in societies around the
grievances to legitimize the use of
world. When radicalization leads to
violence, thus weaponizing real or
violence, however, it needs to be held
perceived grievances through the
in check. Fortunately, the vast majority
legitimization of the use of violence.
of people who hold radical views never
This analysis is based on Benford and
translate those into violent action.
Snow’s Frame Analysis on the “right to

Benford, Robert D, & Snow, David A. (2000). Framing processes and social movements:
An overview and assessment. Annual review of sociology, 611-639.

14 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities

“ Despite a lack of comprehensive understanding there are
nonetheless frequent, observable signs that indicate that an

individual is heading down the path to violent radicalization...

We are not in a position to predict • Getting personal affairs in order

which people constitute the very small (such as repaying debts, writing
minority who go on to violent action. wills or giving away worldly posses-
Luckily, just as with radicalization, sions) and activities that are vital
there are signs when thought becomes to the success of the mobilization
action. This is known as the ‘radical- (such as buying a plane ticket)
ization to mobilization’ process. The • 80% of the youth and young adults
Canadian Security Intelligence Service under the age of 20 mobilize in
(CSIS) published a redacted version of groups of two or more. Young
their work in March 2018.9 In short, the women in particular rarely
Canadian agency found that: mobilize alone.
• The speed of mobilization to • There is often a four year gap
violence takes an average of between a mobilizer’s last
12 months. In other words, in reported criminal activity and their
Canada, cases of spontaneous mobilization to violence.10
mobilization (five days or fewer)
This is important analysis that should
exist but are rare.
be replicated in different countries.
• A change in the individual’s Nevertheless, as CSIS emphasizes, its
physical training routine, followed findings are not predictive and there is
by the financial activities necessary not a ‘magic number’ of indicators that
to mobilize and raise money for the guarantees violent action will ensue.
intended activity.

You can find the redacted findings at Canadian Security Intelligence Service “Mobilization
to Violence (Terrorism) Research, Key Findings” February 5, 2018. Available at:
This suggests that, within Canada, mobilizers make a clear transition between criminal and
extremist activities. This finding stands in stark contrast to academic literature describing the
extremist environment in Europe, where criminal and extremist activities are described as
increasingly related—or even completely symbiotic.

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 15

Principles and best practices of CVE and PVE

When considering the development of programs to deal with

radicalization to violence, terrorism/violent extremism and mass
atrocities/genocide it is useful to examine current best practices
and principles that provide the framework for these efforts. These
sections outline some of those principles and practices.

Community engagement and CVE

are not the same thing
The first and most important principle
of community engagement is that
talking with a country’s citizens is
not the same as having a dialogue on
countering violent extremism. The two
concepts, both of which are important
and both of which are necessary, must
be kept separate, at least in the initial
stages. The latter may arise out of
Front row (left to right): Dr. David Donat-Cattin, the former, but CVE must never occur
Secretary General, PGA; Dip. Margareta Stolbizer before community engagement. There
(Argentina): President, PGA; Mr. Ivan Simonovic, are a few fundamental reasons for this:
Assistant-Secretary-General of the UN, Special Advisor
to the UN Secretary-General on the Responsibility to a. The dialogue between states and
Protect, former Minister of Justice of Croatia. their citizenry is a hallmark of
Back row (right to left): Mr. Kyle Matthews, Executive responsible government. Elected
Director, Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human
Rights Studies; Mr. Leonard Ramatlakane, MP (South
officials serve at the pleasure
Africa); Hon. Hryhoriy Nemyria, MP (Ukraine), Chair of of the electorate and must keep
the Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and it informed.
International Relations, Parliament of Ukraine.
Photo: Brian Kett/PGA
b. Community input to government
policy can be very advantageous.
Elected officials and civil servants

16 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities

of course have a role in developing f. Community meetings can foster
policies, laws and programs but interethnic and interfaith under-
allowing more general input from standing that can serve to build
the wider population can provide resilience that can undermine
new viewpoints that can make attempts to sow hatred and
these better. identify groups for aggression.
The more different communities
c. It is becoming more and more
know about each other and learn
apparent that populations in the
to work together the better pos-
West trust government less and
ition they will be in rejecting these
less. Engaging in meaningful dia-
messages of hate.
logue with a promise that opinions
will be heard (but not necessar-
ily acted upon directly) can help What are the overarching
reverse this trend. goals of CE?
d. In multicultural countries, like Community engagement as a regular
many in the West, some residents government initiative is aimed at sev-
and citizens are not familiar with eral goals. These can be summarized
Western democracy. Inviting as follows:
diasporas and ethnic commun-
a. Civic education. Engagement
ities to a dialogue aids in basic
provides a space for govern-
civics education and could
ments to explain their duties and
enhance participation in the
responsibilities towards citizens
democratic process.
as well as the rights and duties
e. If a government elects to engage of citizens.
in dialogue with communities on
b. Myth busting. Many citizens have
national security issues as ‘first
preconceived, erroneous notions
contact’, those communities may,
of what governments, law enforce-
and likely will, react negatively.
ment and security agencies can do.
Individuals and groups are less
Outreach allows an honest con-
likely to be open to cooperation if
versation (within limits of course)
they perceive that they are being
on the mandates and actions of
exploited for information/intelli-
these agencies. This is important
gence and that the government
for those from areas of the world
does not really care about their
where such organizations are often
issues and challenges. The govern-
above the law. Outreach can serve
ment’s relationship with a section
to demonstrate that in the West
of its citizens should not be “secur-
these agencies are in fact bound by
itized”, i.e. seen primarily through
law and cannot act illegally
the lens of national security issues.

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 17

c. Airing of grievances. Outreach is out. Since CVE is the current term for
an opportunity for communities to preventive measures taken by gov-
present their issues to government ernments and communities it is, by
representatives. Common griev- definition, to be applied at an early
ances include immigration matters, stage of radicalization to violence, in
concern over stereotyping, instan- what is known as ‘pre-criminal space’.
ces of harassment and prejudice
For some, CVE also entails counter
among others.
radicalization and de-radicalization
d. Broaching sensitive issues. programs. The US Department of
Community engagement, if Homeland Security takes a more
done properly, sets the stage for robust view of CVE:
more difficult conversations at a
later time. CVE aims to address the root causes
of violent extremism by providing
e. Getting buy in/collaboration.
resources to communities to build
The ultimate goal of community
and sustain local prevention efforts
engagement is to establish working
relationships between governments and promote the use of counter-
and communities. If communities narratives to confront violent
believe that their input is valued extremist messaging online.11
and a level of trust is created
Stopping violent ideologies from
between the parties, they will be
taking root is a better approach
more open to collaborative work
than extracting them once they have
in the future. Communities seeing
become the dominant frame for some-
themselves as part of the solu-
one. This of course makes intuitive
tion, rather than the ‘problem’, will
sense. Furthermore, counter- and
take ownership of issues and thus
de-radicalization strategies suffer
have a vested interest in helping
from a lack of evidentiary proof and
out. In addition the exercise of
sufficient data that they actually work
engagement fosters greater social
in the long-term.
cohesion, resilience and investment
into the ruling order. It is assumed that the state will
have a role to play in designing and
General Principles of CVE implementing CVE programs. This
is a necessary step but one that
Once engagement has been initiated
must diminish in time, a topic we will
and relationships are beginning to
return to.
mature, CVE proper can be rolled

United States Homeland Security “Terrorism Prevention Partnerships” December 7, 2017. Available

18 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities

Defenders of Democracy Award ceremony, from left to right: Dr. David Donat Cattin, PGA Secretary-General;
Ms. Lia Quartapelle, MP (Italy); Don Virginio Colmegna (Italy), 2017 Defender of Democracy Awardee;
Ms. Lamiya Aji Bashar, Yazidi civil society activist, 2017 Defender of Democracy Awardee; Ms. Emma Bonino
(Italy), 2017 Defender of Democracy Awardee; Ms. Margarita Stolbizer (Argentina), PGA President; Ms. Petra
Bayr, MP (Austria) PGA Treasurer. Photo: Brian Kett/PGA

With these caveats in mind, here are weaknesses due to controversial

some basic considerations for the government policies. Local solutions
creation and implementation of a may also be more economical than
community-based CVE program. those mandated by central authorities.
Finally, local involvement could lead
to a better sense of social cohesion
Where should CVE end up?
and resilience and could also provide
Whatever course national CVE community actors with experience
initiatives follow the end goal should that could be used on larger, more
be community ownership of the national stages.
process. Governments do have
a keen interest in developing and Local management notwithstanding, it
monitoring the progress of CVE but is highly likely that government funding
at an appropriate time local commun- will always be required since commun-
ities should assume responsibility ities rarely have the resources to fund
for administering local programmes. CVE programs. Continued government
Communities are naturally tied to their sponsorship does entail accountabil-
own issues and problems and are in a ity mechanisms and some form of
better position than states to identify effectiveness measurement. When all
and resolve them while government is said, the best role for government is
actors may suffer from credibility eventually one in the background.

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 19

The 5-step CE/CVE model d. To ensure equal and respect-
ful treatment of communities
The International Association of Chiefs
and partners.
of Police (IACP) has created a docu-
ment entitled ‘Community Outreach Among the principles underlying
and Engagement Principles’ 12, whose successful community engagement
principles are general in nature and are acceptance and inclusiveness,
can be applied to any situation. appropriate communication channels,
the identification of credible voices,
The document notes that the goals of transparency, and continuity of action.
outreach are fourfold:
a. To build and maintain relationships Conclusions
and partnerships with
diverse communities CE and CVE are not panaceas to
the problems of violent extremism.
b. To establish transparency, mutual A harder component, involving law
understanding and trust enforcement and security intelligence
c. To ensure public safety and to agencies tasked with investigations
address threats by building law and possible eventual arrests and
enforcement’s knowledge and charges will always be a necessary
awareness of diverse communities option in some cases.

CE and CVE are nonetheless worth

doing for reasons outside of national
security. They contribute to greater
social resilience and cohesion. They
take a lot of effort but that effort will
be seen to be worth it in the end.

In Appendix three, a number of current

programs from countries around the
world that fall into several of the cat-
egories listed above in the definitions
section (early intervention, PVE, CVE,
A father, his son, and young baby sit outside one of
and deradicalization) can be found.
Lanao del Sur’s newest evacuation centers just miles
from the heart of the fighting in Marawi City, Philippines.
Photo: Wes Bruer/IRIN

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Working Group “Community Outreach and Engagement
Principles” IACP Committee on Terrorism 2012. Available at:
IACP-COT_CommPolicingPrinciples__FINALAug12.pdf (Disclaimer: Despite the link between the
IACP and this document, it should not be interpreted as a way to engage solely on security matters.)

20 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities

Other efforts linked to CVE/PVE

Proliferation of weapons
Mass atrocities and acts of violent extremism are facilitated through
illegally-obtained conventional arms.

Curtailing the transfer of arms to numerous times – some states verbally

non-state actors and preventing the support the system but fail to prac-
proliferation of weapons of mass tice what they preach. The European
destruction (WMD) are essential. The Union, for example, has been essential
Programme of Action to Prevent, in establishing the key infrastructure
Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade of arms export/import control but
in Small Arms and Light Weapons conflicts in Syria and Yemen raise
in All Its Aspects,13 as well as other serious concerns about the willingness
international and regional treaties and to comply with rules.
tracing instruments, call on states to
Elected officials in their respective
have national import/export controls
countries can take concrete legisla-
systems in place and not to supply
tive steps to improve legislation and
arms to non-state actors and to states
implementation of relevant treat-
that are likely to violate international
ies, conventions and resolutions.
humanitarian law. However, the
They can push for renewed inter-
foundations of these existing treat-
national commitment and enhanced
ies and agreements have been quite
cooperation and investment in sec-
shaky as several countries have failed
urity and intelligence thanks to their
to commit to these instruments on
legislative powers.

United Nations Small Arms Review Conference “Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and
Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects” 2006. Available at:

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 21

Use of child soldiers more effective preventive responses.
as weapons of war Any CVE/PVE approach should there-
fore take this issue into account.
Today, children are used
systematically, including by ISIS Legislators need to advocate for legis-
and Boko Haram, to help armed lative changes to protect the rights
groups in their criminal activities. of vulnerable group. For example,
The ILO Convention No 182 on the violations against children, includ-
Prohibition and Immediate Action for ing the recruitment of child soldiers
the Elimination of the Worst Forms of and attacks on educational facilities,
Child Labor prohibits the “forced or should be criminalized in all countries,
compulsory recruitment of children for and new international mechanisms
use in armed conflict”. Despite some and approaches should be put in
progress in certain country situations, place to both prevent the use of child
increasingly complex conflicts have soldiers and facilitate the integration of
resulted in more widespread violations enslaved and indoctrinated children.
against children. The recruitment of
child soldiers has been identified by
the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers
Initiative as an early warning sign of
mass atrocities. This realization could
inform timely action that can create

Destruction of Mosul’s old city, Iraq.

Photo: Ibrahim Sherkhan/IRIN

22 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities

When CVE/PVE is insufficient or ineffective:
international action against non-state actors

CVE/PVE efforts and other soft approaches to terrorism are

essential not only to save the lives of those targeted by terrorists
groups but also to reduce the need for costly (human and financial)
military efforts.

However, military efforts, including and international peace and security

peacekeeping missions, are some- when they transform themselves in
times required to protect civilians “insurrectional movements” or rebel
when the threat posed by violent groups. Operation Serval in Mali in
non-state actors is eminent or already January 2013, was a French inter-
present in a particular country vention aimed at ousting Islamic
or region. militants and rebels from the north at
the request of the Malian government
The creation of the United Nations
and under UN Resolution 2085. The
Counter-Terrorism Committee and
French intervention was followed by
the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee
Operation Barkhane, spanning five
Executive Directorate shows that
countries in the Sahel and involving an
member states are conscious of the
African-led Multilateral force. Presently
need for global concerted action
the United Nations Multidimensional
against terrorism. Resolution 1373 rec-
Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali
ognized the threat posed by terrorism
is now one of the UN’s largest peace-
to international peace and security,
keeping operations and also perhaps
and called for a wide range of actions
the deadliest.
to prevent and suppress terrorist acts.
The African Union Mission in Somalia
In recent years, there have been sev-
created in 2007 is a UN-supported
eral regional and international efforts
peacekeeping mission mandated,
against terrorist groups, which can
amongst other things, to “reduce the
pose existential threats to statehood
threat posed by Al Shabaab and other

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 23

must remain careful not to sacrifice
values and fundamental rights, such
as freedom of speech and the right
to a fair trial, in search of security.
Indeed, violations of these rights can
exacerbate problems by increasing the
sense of injustice felt by communities,
a feeling used by extremist groups to
radicalize individuals.

Parliamentarians can strengthen the

Protesters at Tahiri Square, Cairo.
integration and political participa-
Date Friday, November 18, 2011.
Photo: Jonathan Rashad/Flickr IRINNEWs tion of individuals and communities,
particularly minority groups, thereby
preventing the sense of alienation or
victimhood complex sometimes felt
armed opposition groups.” 14 Similarly,
by these groups. They should also
in Nigeria, a multinational force backed
exercise greater democratic oversight
by the African Union and including
and hold governments accountable.
Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroon
They can do so by asking for more
and Benin was launched in 2015 to
transparency and for information
fight Boko Haram in the region. Both
exchange between all levels of govern-
missions are still ongoing.
ments. In addition, counter-terrorism
In many countries, the threat of violent policies should not be confined to
extremism has led to an expansion national boundaries: transnational
of the power of security services. terrorism requires transnational
While this is understandable, states counter-terrorism measures.

“ Parliamentarians can strengthen the integration and political

participation of individuals and communities, particularly
minority groups, thereby preventing the sense of alienation

or victimhood complex sometimes felt by these groups.

AMISOM “AMISOM mandate” n.d. Available at

24 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities

Justice as preventive and punitive tool

Taking action against violent extremists and mass atrocities

demands efforts to bring perpetrators of crimes to justice, not only
as punitive action but as a preventive tool that would send a sign to
would-be terrorists.

UN Security Council resolution 1373 war crimes, genocide and crimes

(2001) requires Member States to against humanity, depending on their
“ensure that any person who par- gravity, scale and nature. Canada
ticipates in the financing, planning, and the UK have tried individuals who
preparation or perpetration of terrorist attempted to join terrorist organiza-
acts or in supporting terrorist acts is tion, and several European countries
brought to justice.” have prosecuted returnees for crimes
committed as members of IS.16
Nationally, law enforcement agen-
cies have had to adapt to the global While ‘transnational’ law enforcement
terrorist threat, particularly with the in these cases are still at the develop-
foreign fighter phenomenon and the ment stage, there have been cases of
transnational nature of contemporary cross-border cooperation in cases of
terrorism. States are having to make war crimes and crimes against human-
legislative changes to deal with home- ity, as with the conviction of Chadian
grown terrorism and foreign fighters dictator Hisène Habre who was tried
who have committed terrorist and in a foreign court and convicted for
mass atrocity crimes abroad, or who crimes against humanity, war crimes
have supported terrorist organizations and torture.
at home.15 Those crimes can constitute

Library of Congress “Treatment of Foreign Fighters in Selected Jurisdictions: Country Surveys”
October 6, 2015. Available at:
Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Council of Europe “Prosecuting and punishing the
crimes against humanity or even possible genocide committed by Daesh” September 20, 2017.
Available at:

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 25

For justice to be credible and gain
acceptance by all sides concerned,
it has to respect and fulfil all inter-
national norms and standards
protecting the rights of the accused
and the presumption of innocence.
Counter-terrorism measures have
been often perceived as trumping
inalienable human rights protections.
Extrajudicial or summary executions
and other unlawful practices have
often been conducive to unintended
Dep. Aissata Touré Diallo, Mali. At the Milan Forum. counter-productive effects, as they
Photo: Brian Kett/PGA
give an opportunity to violent extremist
groups to gain new recruits in mar-
The prosecution of individuals for war ginalized communities and amongst
crimes and crimes against humanity the educated youth. The unanimous
has made huge strides but the actions finding of the several debates hosted
of the International Criminal Court at the Milan Forum was that there is
remains limited as a result of its juris- no shortcut vis-à-vis justice under
diction that depends either on States’ International Law, and that only the
consent or UN Security Council’s due process of law can result in genu-
referrals, which have been select- ine truth-finding, access to justice for
ive and unsatisfactory. In respect of victims, proportionate punishment of
mass-atrocity situations falling outside the convicted persons and reparations
the current ICC territorial jurisdiction by the perpetrator to the victim (along-
(e.g. Syria/Iraq), much of the inter- side states’ forms of reparations).
national success has been the work In terms of historic memorialization,
of victims, non-governmental groups the outcomes of human rights’
and national governments collecting law-abiding judicial process – namely,
evidence of mass atrocity crimes for judgements by independent Courts
eventual prosecution in national or – may not be rebutted by negation-
international courts. Under the princi- ist theories and can provide a fertile
ple of “universal jurisdiction”, Sweden ground for measures on non-repeti-
and Germany are currently engaged in tion (“never again”), including national
such efforts to investigate and pros- reconciliation policies.
ecute individuals allegedly implicated
in crimes against humanity in Syria.

26 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities

The role of parliamentarians in PVE/CVE
and mass atrocity prevention

Parliamentarians can and should play a role in PVE/CVE

and atrocity prevention.

Even if members of assemblies do • Urge experts and government

not possess the expertise required officials to formulate strategies and
to become part of programs they can legislation for social media plat-
perform several useful functions in forms to work more effectively in
positioning their countries to adopt identifying objectionable material
better domestic and foreign policies. for removal and taking a stronger
They can be summarized as follows: stance against online hate and the
incitement to violence.
Parliamentarians can:
• Sponsor public education programs
• Pressure the executive branch of
for youth who might be susceptible
government and the civil service to
to extremist ideas.
support and/or develop a national
PVE/CVE action plan and ensure • Support civil society initiatives and
they have the proper resources to inter-faith dialogues at the domestic
be effective. and international levels.

• Convene experts to evaluate • Pressure their governments to join

ongoing programs and identify new existing international treaties and
approaches. initiatives that cover terrorism and
mass atrocities.
• Sponsor the sharing of ideas and
best practices from practitioners in • Pressure their governments
country and around the world. to prosecute returning foreign
fighters and ensure that evidence
• Participate in outreach sessions
and documentation concerning
with their constituencies to
the perpetration of crimes under
help garner support for PVE/
International Law is collected and
CVE programs.
preserved in respect of all relevant

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 27

situations in such a way as to NGOs are increasingly falling foul of
make such evidence and docu- laws designed to limit their spheres
mentation available for trials and of action.
other accountability processes
• Parliamentarians need to combat
aimed at putting an end to impun-
the diminishing public sphere by
ity for crimes that threaten the
promoting and protecting freedom
peace, security and well-being of
of association, expression and
the world.
peaceful assembly. Legislators
Combatting the root causes of must also guarantee the existence
extremism requires more than mil- of a fair legal framework that ends
itary action, which should be used the impunity of violent organiz-
only when absolutely necessary. It ations without descending into
requires, among other things, a strong extrajudicial violence. These steps
civil society. However, civil society is are beneficial to parliamentar-
increasingly under threat as a result of ians themselves, particularly the
the growth of theocratic and popu- opposition, who need protection to
list power intertwined with a loss act freely and safely without fear of
of democratic momentum in recent imprisonment.
decades. The threat is exacerbated by
• The rising number of war crimes
a tendency of governments to react
and crimes against humanity shows
to the threat of insecurity and violent
that the Responsibility to Protect
extremism by targeting civil society.
is being paid mere lip service.
Parliamentarians are in a position to
act. They can advocate their coun-
tries support the Responsibility
to Protect and UN peacekeeping
operations, while simultaneously
advocating for official development
assistance be mobilized to sup-
port countries that are confronted
by violent extremism. Even small
changes can add up to meaningful
results for people who are caught
up in violence.
• Parliamentarians should push their
countries to join, if they haven’t
Sen. Taghreed Hikmet, Jordan. At the Milan Forum. already, international human rights
Photo: Brian Kett/PGA and arms treaties. War crimes,

28 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities

“ Combatting the root causes of extremism requires
more than military action, which should be used only

when absolutely necessary.

crimes against humanity, and The world of counter terrorism and

genocide should be criminalized PVE/CVE is a large one and requires
in domestic laws, putting spe- buy-in and assistance of multiple
cial emphasis on the incitement actors. The international community
of these crimes. Parliamentary is confronted with dangerous extrem-
oversight is also crucial in keep- ist ideologies that are used to justify
ing government accountable atrocity crimes against civilians, and
and through the development of undermine peace, security, sustain-
committees change can be insti- able development, human rights, the
tutionalized, lasting after individual rule of law, and resilient societies.
legislators have left. As such, terrorism, including inter-
national terrorism, is one of the most
• The prevention of violent extrem-
visible and perceived manifestations
ism and mass atrocities should be
of violent extremist groups. Given that
placed above party politics and
these groups are also perpetrating
countered most effectively when
atrocities that must be qualified as the
MPs work together. Bipartisan
most serious crimes of concern to the
parliamentary groups can use the
international community as a whole.
budgetary powers of their members
to increase funding for programs Parliamentarians have a valuable
that will benefit mass atrocity contribution to make. These problems
prevention, including education and are not going away and as vanguards
support for NGOs. The latter are of democracy and the rule of law, par-
important because they work on liamentarians are uniquely positioned
the ground and perform roles that to be agents of change and safeguard
parliamentarians cannot. If the gov- human rights. The more legislators
ernment in power does not want to who take leadership to help address
engage in efforts to prevent atroci- this challenge, the better.
ties, parliamentarians particularly
need to engage with civil society
and draw on its expertise as part of
efforts to increase the political will
for action.

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 29


Berger, J.M. Making CVE Work: A Focused Approach Based on Process

Disruption ICCT Research Paper May 2016

Dawson, Laura, Edwards, Charlie and Jeffray, Calum Learning and adapting;
The use of monitoring and evaluation in countering violent extremism Royal
United Services Institute 2014

Gerber, Rachel, Rapp, Stephen Violent Nonstate Actors as Perpetrators and

Enablers of Atrocity Crimes Policy Dialogue Brief October 2015

Gurski, Phil The Threat from Within: Recognizing Al Qaeda-inspired radicalisation

to violence in the West Rowman and Littlefield 2015

Nyst, Madeleine When implementation falls behind research: the case

of CVE February 2018

Schmid, Alex P Al Qaeda’s “Single Narrative” and attempts to develop counter-

narratives ICCT Research Paper January 2014

The Stanley Foundation Preventing Mass Atrocities: A Road Map for Legislators
Policy Memo July 2017

30 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities


In Table One on page 3 a list of the ended the siege in part through the
major terrorist attacks perpetrated by release of a chemical agent into the
Islamist extremists over the past two ventilation system.
decades were summarized in tabular • On 11 March 2004 bombs exploded
form. The following are short descrip- on commuter trains in the city of
tions of each incident. Madrid, Spain, killing almost 200
• The 9/11 attacks were carried out people and wounding more than
by members of Al Qaeda who 2,000. The government originally
hijacked four aircraft flying from blamed the Basque ETA terrorist
New York and Boston airports. group for the attack: the perpetra-
One plane was flown into each of tors are believed to have had links
the World Trade Center towers. A to Al Qaeda and the attack may
third plane struck the Pentagon in have been tied to the then Spanish
Washington and the fourth crashed government’s participation in the
in a field in Pennsylvania when US-led invasion of Iraq.
passengers foiled the hijackers’ • In early September 2004 Chechen
intent (which may have been the extremists took children and
White House) teachers hostage at a school in the
• Al Qaeda claimed responsibility North Ossetian village of Beslan.
for bombs placed in night clubs Russian forces stormed the school
popular with Australian tourists on on the third day of the siege and
the Indonesian island of Bali on used heavy equipment to end
October 12, 2002. the incident.

• On October 23, 2002 a group of • 7/7 is the name given to the

Chechen terrorists took hundreds bombings of several cars in the
of hostages in the Nord-Ost theatre London Tube system by Al Qaeda-
in Moscow, demanding the with- linked terrorists. 53 people were
drawal of Russian forces from killed and more than 700 were
the Causcasus. Security forces injured in the attack.

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 31

• Seven pressure cooker explosives • A suicide bomber targeted Yemeni
were placed on Mumbai com- soldiers at a National Unity Day
muter trains in July 2006 in attacks ceremony in Sana’a on May 21,
perpetrated by the Lashkar-e-Taiba 2012, killing more than 100.
terrorist group. • A series of car bombs, suicide
• A series of truck bombs struck Iraqi attacks and shootings on August
villages largely inhabited by Yazidis 16, 2012 led to the deaths of 128
near the country’s border with people and the wounding of more
Syria on August 14, 2006 killing than 400 across Baghdad and cen-
more than 500 and injuring more tral/northern Iraq. The Islamic State
than 1,500. of Iraq (ISI) is believed to have been
behind the attacks.
• Lashkar-e-Taiba was responsible
for the November 2008 attacks on • A series of coordinated bombings
several Mumbai hotels, commercial and shootings across Baghdad and
centers and a Jewish center that several major cities in the north and
resulted in the deaths of 164 people south of Iraq on September 9, 2012
(another 308 were injured). resulted in the deaths of at least
108 people (371 were injured).
• At least 20 attacks in the form of
bombings and targeted shootings • 130 people were killed and 270
occurred in several Iraqi cities on injured in three attacks in the
May 10, 2010 attributed to Al Qaeda Pakistani city of Quetta on January
in Iraq. 10, 2013. The United Baloch Army
was responsible for the first attack
• Car bombs attributed to Al Qaeda
while Jashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed
in Iraq killed at least 137 people in
the other two.
the Iraqi cities of Tikrit, Baqubah,
Ghalbiyah and Karbala from 18 to • The Nigerian state of Borno wit-
20 January 2011. nessed its own Valentine’s Day
massacre in 2014 when the terrorist
• On October 4, 2011 a suicide
group Boko Haram shot and knifed
bomber drove a truck into a
to death more than 121 dead.
complex belonging to the Somali
Transitional Federal Government in • Islamic State killed more than 700
Mogadishu, killing over 100 people members of the Syrian al-Shaitat
and wounding a similar number. tribe on August 17, 2014.

32 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities

• Suicide bombers and gunmen
belonging to Boko Haram killed
at least 120 people at the Central
Mosque in the Nigerian city of Kano
in the northern part of the country
on November 28, 2014.
• The Somali terrorist group Al
Shabaab claimed responsibility for
an attack on the Garissa University
College in northeastern Kenya,
resulting in the deaths of 148
mostly students on April 2, 2015.
The assailants separated Muslims
from Christians, killing the latter. Misrata was heavily damaged by fighting during the
2011 Libyan civil war. (November 2011) Date Friday,
• The central station in Ankara, December 9, 2011.
Turkey, was hit with two bombs on Photo: Heba Aly/IRIN, IRINNEWS
October 10, 2015 claiming the lives
of 109 people. IS is believed to have
been behind the attack.
• Islamic State terrorists carried out
multiple attacks throughout the
evening of November 13, 2015
in Paris, killing 137 people and
wounding an additional 368.
• IS killed 340 people, the majority
of whom were Shia Muslims, in
a car bomb in Karrada, Iraq on
July 3, 2016.
• A massive truck bomb blamed
on Al Shabaab killed more than
500 people in Mogadishu on
October 14, 2017.

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 33


Indicator #1 – Sudden increase in intolerant religiosity

Indicator #2 – Rejection of different interpretations of Islam

Indicator #3 – Rejection of non–Muslims

Indicator #4 – Rejection of Western ways

Indicator #5 – Rejection of Western policies

(domestic, military, foreign, social, etc.)

Indicator #6 – Association with like–minded people

Indicator #7 – Obsession with jihadi sites

Indicator #8 – Obsession with the Single Narrative

Indicator #9 – Desire to travel to conflict zones

Indicator #10 – Obsession with jihad

Indicator #11 – Obsession with martyrdom

Indicator #12 – Obsession with end of time

For further details consult Phil Gurski The Threat from Within: Recognizing Al Qaeda-inspired
radicalisation and terrorism in the West Rowman and Littlefield (2015)

34 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities


 overnment of Canada General
G Cross Cultural Roundtable
Information Sessions on Security
The Government of Canada (GOC) The Cross Cultural Roundtable on
has developed a series of informa- Security (CCRS) was created by the
tion sessions targeted primarily at Canadian federal government in the
‘new Canadians’ (i.e. recent immi- mid 2000s to seek the opinions and
grants). These sessions are organized input of community leaders on issues
by Public Safety Canada and take tied to national security. According to
place across Canada. They involve the Public Safety Canada Website:
Ottawa-based and local officials from
Public Safety, the RCMP, CSIS, CBSA The Cross-Cultural Roundtable on
and Citizenship and Immigration Security was created to engage
Canada (CIC). Canadians and the Government of
Canada in a long-term dialogue on
Post-session surveys found that:
matters related to national security.
• 87% of participants felt that the The Roundtable brings together
national security organizations had citizens who are leaders in their
an important role for Canadian respective communities and who
security have extensive experience in social
• 81% agreed their understanding and cultural matters. It focuses on
of the roles of the departments emerging developments in national
improved security matters and their impact
• 79% felt that the departments on Canada’s diverse and pluralistic
openly shared information society. The group provides advice
and perspectives to the Minister
• 76% agreed that their trust in the
of Public Safety and the Minister
departments increased18

Personal communication, December 2016

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 35

of Justice, concerning matters of and families with a range of commun-
national security. The concept of ity activities to undercut recruitment
the Cross-Cultural Roundtable efforts by Al Shabaab. The program
was built into Canada’s National has not been without criticism from
Security Policy.19 local Somali leaders, however. Some
believe that the program unfairly
From the government side, the targets Somali Americans while others
benefits are improved collabora- claim that it lacks adequate civil liber-
tion on national security issues, an ties protections and can divide Muslim
enhanced understanding of issues communities by spreading suspicion.
in the community, and input into the Furthermore, there do not appear to
creation of national programmes that be assurances in place that informa-
are culturally sensitive and bias free. tion collected will not be passed on to
For their part, communities receive security intelligence and law enforce-
a better understanding on national ment agencies.
security issues, have an opportunity
to provide input into policies that take UK
into consideration local realities, and PREVENT
contribute to a degree of transparency
in the national security realm. One of the oldest and best known
programs in the West is that of
PREVENT, one of the four pillars of the
UK’s counter terrorism (CONTEST)
The Minneapolis CVE initiative initiative. PREVENT is a controver-
The northern US city of Minneapolis sial approach for several reasons.
has been involved in CVE since the While the government maintains it is
mid 2000s when officials learned that directed at any form of violent radical-
a disproportionate number of the city’s ization many perceive it as targeted
Somali-Americans had gone back to mainly at Muslims (this is of course
their homeland to fight with the ter- understandable to some as the single
rorist group Al Shabaab. Minneapolis greatest security threat to the UK is
was selected in 2014 as one of three that from Islamist extremism). The
pilot cities for community-focused very reasonable decision to get as
counter-extremism programs, along- many people as possible involved in
side Los Angeles and Boston Efforts detecting radicalization to violence
are focused on assisting Somali youth – teachers, parents, health care and

Public Safety Canada “Connecting with Canadian Communities” February 26, 2018 https://www.

36 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities

social workers, etc. – has led to accus- terrorism it does seem clear that
ations that Muslim communities are the experience has not been totally
being spied upon and subjected to useful or effective.
excessive surveillance. The inclusion
of young children in the program has Institute for Strategic Dialogue
also invited a backlash: of the 7,631
The UK think tank Institute for
individuals referred from April 2015
Strategic Dialogue (ISD) developed a
to March 2016, almost one third were
project known as ‘Extreme Dialogue’
children (and only five percent of refer-
in conjunction with a government of
rals went on to the actual mentorship
Canada Kanishka grant beginning in
sub-program known as CHANNEL).20
the early 2010s . Extreme Dialogue
The principle problems with the aims to prevent radicalization to
UK strategy can be summed up violence through the compilation and
as follows: use of educational resources and
short, engaging films that encourage
• Referrals to the program are volun-
critical thinking. Among the subjects
tary: individuals who are deemed
in the films were a former very violent
to need help can quit whenever
Canadian skinhead, the mother of a
they want
deceased IS foreign fighter, a former
• It is hard to measure ‘success’ as member of the Ulster Volunteer Force
these programs are trying to deter- in Northern Ireland and a former
mine when something does not member of Al Mujahiroun, a banned
happen (i.e. a future terrorist attack) terrorist group in the UK.21
• Governments are often too large The films are powerful and hold back
and ham-handed to administer pro- little. Ex-extremists go into graphic
grams of this nature, which some detail about the violence they either
believe should be left to commun- engaged in or were witness to. The
ities and local actors project has a teachers’ resource
• Communities have clearly felt guide to facilitate classroom con-
stigmatized by the process. While versations as the primary targets of
it is not straightforward to draw a the films’ messages are youth. In an
line between stigmatization and effort to gauge the effectiveness of

Michael Holden “Thousands of children referred to UK’s counter terrorism scheme, figures show”
Reuters November 9, 2017. Available at:
counter-terrorism-scheme-figures-show-idUSKBN1D91ZD?il=0 last accessed December 20, 2017
Extreme Dialogue n.d. Available at: last accessed December 31, 2017

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 37

this approach, Extreme Dialogue has with extremists directly, Hayat tends
created separate before and after to speak with the family and friends
feedback forms for teachers and of extremists, who have already left
students in order to help ISD gather Germany or who are unwilling to
quantitative and qualitative data to cooperate with the program. Its case-
measure the project’s impact. load has grown steadily since 2012,
from 21 initially to 53 to 120 in 2014.
Exit Deutschland/Hayat DENMARK
Exit Deutschland (Exit Germany in SSP
English) bills itself as an initiative to The Danish government initiated the
help anyone who wants to get out of ‘Schools, Social Services and Police’
the extreme right milieu and start a (SSP) program in 1977 to identify risk
new life. Created in 2000 by a former factors behind crime and delinquency.
German criminologist/detective and It is a collaborative system that
a former neo-Nazi, Exit Deutschland coordinates local and municipal crime
claims to have handled 500 cases over preventive efforts towards children
its first 18 years and has suffered a and adolescents and may include a
very low recidivism rate of 3%22 One role for families. The program also
of the program’s former members, seeks to identify protective factors in
Daniel Koehler, now the Director of the individual’s daily life and environ-
the German Institute on Radicalization ments. The principle behind the SSP
and De-radicalization Studies (GIRDS), collaboration system is that the quality
has assisted officials in Minnesota of crime prevention work is strength-
deal with the issue of radicalized ened by the sharing of information
Somali Americans. between the professions. Over the
years the program has been modified
A sister project to Exit Deutschland
to address radicalization and violent
is Hayat (Arabic for ‘life’) that focuses
extremism issues.
on Islamist extremism. It was formed
in 2012 and has a stated goal of Aarhus model
preventing Germans from leaving the
Denmark, like all Western countries,
country to join terrorist groups like IS.
has had to face a serious terrorist
Unlike Exit Deutschland which deals
threat. At least 135 Danes left to join

Exit Germany “We Provide Ways Out Of Extremism” n.d. Available at: http://www.exit-deutschland.
de/english/ last accessed December 27, 2017

38 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities

IS23 and there have been a number
of successful terrorist attacks
in Denmark ascribed to Islamist The Saudi deradicalization programs
extremists. In response, the city of began in 2004, when the Interior
Aarhus has developed an interest- Ministry responded to a series of
ing approach known as the ‘Aarhus domestic terrorist incidents by trans-
model’. Part early intervention and forming its counterterrorism strategy,
part exit program, Aarhus’ efforts are taking steps to balance traditional
aimed at preventing violent radical- security efforts with techniques that
ization in individuals who may, if left address the ideological sources of
unchecked, pose a threat to Danish violent extremism. One critical com-
society. The Aarhus model seeks to ponent of this new approach was the
channel individuals’ political, social, rehabilitation of extremists in prison
cultural and personal motivations into through religious re-education and
legal and democratic avenues. Cases psychological counseling. Over time,
referred to what are known as the ‘Info the Saudi rehabilitation program grew
House’, and which may be received in scope and prestige as graduates
from parents, teachers and others, appeared to reintegrate successfully
are assessed for seriousness (cases into society.
of real violence may be passed to
Since its inception, approximately
the Danish police/intelligence service
4,000 prisoners have participated in a
PET) and an individualized program is
six-week rehabilitation course which
developed with a heavy emphasis on
includes both counseling sessions
personalized mentoring. As a measure
and an after-care program that helps
of the success of the approach with
reintegrate them into Saudi society.
regard to foreign fighters, Aarhus’
“Beneficiaries”, as they are called by
police commissioner claims that of the
the Saudis, have access to commit-
33 men from the city who joined IS as
tees of clerics, psychologists, and
of 2013, 16 have returned and only one
security officers who handle reli-
has since traveled to Syria (it is unclear
gious, psycho-social, security, and
whether this single individual is a vet-
media-related programming.
eran or a new combatant).24

Lucie Rychia “Most Danish foreign fighters are men aged below 30 and come from a major city”
Copenhagen Post Online September 15, 2016. Available at:
foreign-fighters-are-men-aged-below-30-and-come-from-a-major-city.html last accessed
December 27, 2017
Manfred Ertel and Ralf Hoppe “A Danish answer to radical jihad” Der Spiegel Online February 23,
2015. Available at:
jihadists-from-syria-a-success-story-a-1019633. html last accessed December 27, 2017

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 39

A central challenge has been detainee’s behavior, not change his
evaluating the effectiveness of these religious beliefs. Saudi efforts have
rehabilitation efforts. Saudi offi- also expanded the role of a detainee’s
cials have often used the program’s family. In addition to visiting during the
recidivism rate, which represents the program and providing post-release
number of former detainees who “go support, family members now provide
back to the fight,” as an indicator input on how to design specialized
of success. This painted a positive programs for each detainee and
impression early on, when the Saudis inform how his progress is evaluated.
claimed a 100 percent success rate.
But it later highlighted the program’s SINGAPORE
flaws, particularly after a January 2009
The Singaporean government inaug-
announcement by the Saudis that
urated the Religious Rehabilitation
at least eleven former Guantanamo
Group (RRG) in 2003 in response
detainees returned to terrorist activity
to the threat of terrorist attacks by
after graduating from the program.
Jemaah Islamiyah. In its own words,
The Saudis now admit that as many
the RRG goal is to:
as 10 to 20 percent of those released
may return to illicit activity. But correct the misinterpretation of
questions remain about the accur- Islamic concepts and dispel the
acy of any estimate of recidivism,
extremist and terrorist ideologies
particularly since there has not been
they have been indoctrinated with.
enough time to study long-term effects
Rehabilitation seeks to counter
of deradicalization.
detainees’ ideological misunder-
One of the most interesting aspects standing of religion and help them
of the Saudi efforts is the Mohammed come to terms with the fact that
bin Nayef Center for Counseling and they have been misled. By acknow-
Advice, which formally opened in
ledging the inappropriateness of
2007 as a modified halfway house
their behaviour, future criminal acts
that combined elements of a secur-
can be prevented. As the detain-
ity operation with those of a social
services institution. ees’ ideology often affects their
family members, RRG counsels the
In keeping with the distinction latter as well to avoid and disrupt
between deradicalization and disen- the vicious ideological cycle...the
gagement, Saudi program managers
programme also seeks to stimu-
have begun to focus more on the
late the minds of the detainees to
latter, with an emphasis on edu-
understand Islam in the Singapore
cational efforts aiming to modify a

40 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities

context. The program aims to Intervention in Violent Extremism)
show that living Islam rightfully in which targets those already sentenced
Singapore is practicable and ful- (or awaiting sentence) for a terror-
filling, in the hopes that such efforts ism-related offence or who have been
would contribute towards preserving deemed to be radicalized. RIVE con-
tains an individual mentorship module
the safety and security of Singapore.
that consists of a team of coaches, a
Besides its primary counselling and
psychologist, a religious adviser and
rehabilitation work, the RRG is also
a psychiatrist who will engage with
committed to building social resili- a radicalized individual and with his/
ence in the community through its her family.
outreach programmes. Since 2005,
the RRG has organised conferen-
ces, forums, dialogue sessions and
briefings to educate the community It is impossible to draw generalized
about key Islamic concepts which lessons from the programs currently
underway around the world. Each
have often been misinterpreted by
country and each approach has its
terrorist and extremist groups such
own characteristics and legal frame-
as JI, Al Qaeda and ISIS.25
works within which it must operate.
Nations that are majority Muslim
FRANCE have certain advantages (culture,
French security authorities have history, etc,) not necessarily present
identified 18-20,000 radicalized in Muslim minority ones. One factor
French Muslims. France has been seems to apply across all programs,
hit hard by Islamist terrorist attacks however. The involvement of family,
in recent years (Paris and Nice were friends and community is an important
the sites of the largest attacks) and element that cannot be overempha-
the government has decided to act sized. States and governments often
on several levels rather than focus suffer from trust issues among their
solely on investigative and punitive populaces and the inclusion of ‘fam-
actions. In November 2017 unveiled iliar faces’ can help those enrolled
RIVE (Recherche et Intervention en in these programs better adjust to
Extremisme Violent – Research and their rehabilitation.

Religious Rehabilitation Group n.d. Available at:

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 41


Level 1 – no established concerns recently arrived immigrants

relationship, little or no have of governments and law enforce-
mutual knowledge ment/security agencies.

Those tasked with outreach activities

need at this level to determine who is Level 3 – Initial contact leads to
in the community of interest, develop open channels of communication
a general understanding of potential An example of an initiative at this level
partners, build credibility through one is the RCMP’s ‘Citizens’ Academies’,
on one encounters and remain current a program designed to foster under-
on developments, issues and con- standing of how the police works,26 the
cerns in the community. use of social media to push messages
out to the community and a prelimin-
Level 2 – potential partners ary exchange of information between
identified, possible conflicts arise police and communities.

Actions at this stage include attending

public community events to engage Level 4 – mutual understanding
a wide selection of community and shared education is developing,
members, seeking a sponsor from communities accept the role
within the community who can pro- of law enforcement to handle
vide greater access, validation and certain issues.
boost credibility where tension and
Among the actions at this level are
scepticism exists and participate
‘youth academies’ (similar to the
in ‘newcomers’ events to alleviate
above noted Citizens’ Academies but

For an example of one such initiative in British Columbia, see RCMP “Surrey RCMP launches Citizen
Police Academy” July 30, 2014. Available at:

42 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities

aimed at elementary level students), dialogue and mutual understanding
the development of a diverse work- are in place and communities are
ing group of community members to developing ownership of issues.
discuss mutual concerns, drafting an
MOU to ensure continuity of com- At this level regular consultations
mitment, and accepting invitations to are held with the working group of
discuss specific issues of concern in a community representatives to seek
particular community. their advice on issues of mutual
concern and governments sup-
port local initiatives that will have
Level 5 – a comprehensive network positive outcomes.
of meaningful relationships are
established and high levels of trust,

At the Milan Forum. Photo: Brian Kett/PGA

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 43


39 th Annual Forum of Acknowledging the crucial role played

Parliamentarians for Global Action by us, as Legislators, in preventing
Milan, Italy 27-28 November 2017 and halting violent extremism and
mass atrocity crimes at the local,
We, the Members of Parliament national, regional and international
from over 50 countries from around levels; Recognizing that the inter-
the world, participating in the Milan national community is confronted
Forum for Parliamentary Action in with dangerous extremist ideologies
Preventing Violent Extremism and that are used to justify atrocity crimes
Mass Atrocities, at the end of the against civilians, and undermine
deliberations held in Milan, Italy, on peace, security, sustainable develop-
27 and 28 November 2017, on the ment, human rights, the rule of law,
occasion of the 39th Annual Forum of and resilient societies;
Parliamentarians for Global Action:
Understanding that this threat cannot
Expressing gratitude to the Mayor only be addressed through secur-
of Milan and the Italian Parliament ity-based counter-terrorism measures
(Senate of the Republic and Chamber but requires a more comprehensive
of Deputies), the European Parliament, approach, which encompasses
the Organizing Committee of PGA preventive measures that address the
Italy, the Montreal Institute for roots causes and drivers of violent
Genocide and Human Rights Studies extremism and mass atrocities;
at Concordia University and the
Stanley Foundation as co-organizers, Underscoring the importance of
as well as donors and institutional justice, the Rule of Law, democratic
partners for making the Milan Forum governance, human rights – including
possible, within the framework of the right to education– and strong
PGA’s action-driven and results-ori- civil societies as crucial elements of
ented campaigns to prevent violent any viable strategy and policy aimed
extremism and mass atrocities in all at addressing mass atrocities and
regions of the world; violent extremism;

44 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities

Underlining the importance of agree to use our legislative and
empowering legislators and other political prerogatives to achieve the
policy-makers to undertake policies following national, global and, as
and practices that may effectively appropriate, regional commitments:
prevent and contain violent extremists
and eradicate discriminatory policies I. On Addressing the Drivers and Root
that serve as causes and drivers of Causes of Violent Extremism and
violent extremism and mass atrocities; Mass Atrocities
Recognizing that while terrorism, We recognize that totalitarian
including international terrorism, is approaches to and fundamentalist
one of the most visible and perceived interpretation of religious beliefs, polit-
manifestations of violent extremist ical ideologies and ethnic differences,
groups, these groups are also perpe- combined with political and financial
trating atrocities that must be qualified support from State and Non-State
as the most serious crimes of con- Actors to extremists who exploit real
cern to the international community or perceived injustices and grievances,
as a whole, namely: (1) genocide, are root causes and drivers of violent
(2) crimes against humanity and (3) extremism and mass atrocities. These
war crimes, including the destruc- actors distort beliefs to legitimize
tion of cultural heritage sites, and (4) their actions and recruit followers. We
the crime of aggression, regarding acknowledge that violent extremism
which effective prosecutions may be does not arise in a vacuum but that
facilitated by the application of general certain conditions can contribute to a
principles of international criminal conducive environment for radicaliz-
law (i.e., non-applicability of statutes ation that leads to violent extremism:
of limitations and of the defense of marginalization, discrimination, poor
superior-order, command responsib- governance, violation of human rights
ility or responsibility of the superior, and the rule of law, prolonged con-
irrelevance of official capacity, prohibi- flicts, impunity for atrocity crimes
tion of amnesties and other impunity committed by State and Non-State
measures, obligation to prosecute Actors, gender inequality, poverty
and extradite or surrender to the and extreme income inequality, and
International Criminal Court); lack of socio-economic opportun-
ities, social cohesion and education.
We, the Members of Parliament These are all causes and/or drivers
attending the Milan Forum for of the aforementioned crimes. Finally,
Parliamentary Action in Preventing we underline that the internet and
Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities social media are used as weapons
on 27-28 November 2017, therefore of propaganda and recruitment by

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 45

extremist groups. Violent retaliation in 3. To call for the development of a
the form of “decapitation” and elimin- national plan of action to prevent
ation of violent extremists pursued via violent extremism and a national
extra-judicial or summary executions, mechanism for the prevention of
including targeted killings, are outside mass atrocities. These preventive
the justice framework, inconsistent tools will address justice deficits
with International Law, perceived as and governance issues; improve
an exercise of vendetta, and extremely social cohesion, equality and socio-
ineffective. These strategies encour- economic opportunities; acknowledge
age recruitment into some violent that authoritarian regimes are the
extremist groups that promote a worst threat to peace and resilience;
self-styled notion of ultimate sacrifice and ensure effective parliamentary
or “martyrdom.” engagement and oversight through
–inter alia– parliamentary questions
We resolve: to the Executive and Committees’
1. To engage with our legislative hearings with appropriate experts,
colleagues and other policy-makers including the UN Special Advisers
from all political affiliations at the on the Prevention of Genocide,
local, national, regional, transnational Responsibility to Protect and Children
and international levels, to achieve and Armed Conflict.
multi-partisan agreement to pre-
4. To intensify efforts to ensure the
vent and halt totalitarian ideologies
implementation of national, trans-
that promote violent extremism and
national and international mechanisms
mass atrocities.
to detect and alert to warning signs
2. To address the underlying of atrocities and extremism, including
conditions that drive individuals to hate speech and propaganda both on
join extremist groups, particularly by and off the internet, and, to this effect,
strengthening democratic governance, raise questions to the Government
protecting human rights, enabling about the actions it is taking to fulfil its
civic participation, fostering the rule of duty to prevent atrocities and ensure
law, paying attention to young people the allocation in national budgets
and returning foreign fighters, and of resources for such prevention
guaranteeing gender equality and the measures, including regular atrocity
rights of marginalized populations, risk assessments and reporting, to
including indigenous, ethnic and be undertaken in conjunction with
religious minorities. national human rights institutions/
ombudspersons and academic/civil
society initiatives on national and
international risks.

46 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities

5. To develop disengagement, 6(c) In order to ensure that the respect
de-radicalization, rehabilitation/reinte- of the dignity and rights of victims
gration and education programmes are fulfilled, to establish effective
for individuals engaged in violence, and comprehensive reparation and
including national communication assistance programmes for the benefit
strategies that challenge and dis- of victims and their families, as well
prove the narratives promoted by as communities affected by atrocity-
extremist groups. crimes and other forms of violence.
6(a) To ensure that alleged
perpetrators of atrocity-crimes and
II. On Halting the Proliferation
acts of terrorism, including high-level
of Conventional Arms and
recruiters and instigators to hatred, are
Weapons of Mass Destruction
brought to justice in accordance with
to Violent Extremists
internationally-accepted standards We acknowledge that acts of violent
applicable to the rights of the accused extremism and atrocities are com-
to have a fair trial and the rights of vic- mitted by usage of a wide range of
tims to have access to justice, remedy legally- and illegally-obtained con-
and reparations, and to know the truth ventional arms and Weapons of Mass
and have it officially acknowledged. Destruction (WMDs), and non-state
and state actors have taken steps to
6(b) To prevent further atrocities by
develop, manufacture and use WMDs.
ensuring that justice is done, fulfilling
the inalienable rights of victims, and
We resolve:
halting existing policies and practices
7. To give priority to mitigate and
through which members of violent
eradicate the illicit trade of con-
extremist groups are not brought to
ventional arms and to prevent the
justice for genocide, crimes against
proliferation of WMDs, including
humanity or war crimes, but are exe-
encouraging states to support the
cuted outside an active armed-conflict
UN process to ban nuclear weapons.
framework with the view of purport-
edly eliminating the threat that they 8. To take concrete legislative steps
are posing or decapitating the leader- to improve domestic firearms legis-
ship of their organisations, labelled lation and the implementation and
as terrorist, regardless of whether an enforcement of relevant regional and
imminent threat or criminal conduct international treaties, resolutions,
has been independently verified by a conventions, and other relevant
competent judicial authority. instruments, including the Arms
Trade Treaty, the UN Programme of
Action Addressing the Illicit Trade in
Small Arms and Light Weapons, the

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 47

International Tracing Instrument, the jurisdictions. In order to give effect
UN Firearms Protocol on Small Arms to these obligations, we stress that
and Light Weapons, the Biological states and international bodies must
Weapons Convention, the Chemical develop better mechanisms to collect
Weapons Convention and United and preserve evidence for prosecu-
Nations Security Council Resolution tion. At the same time, we underscore
1540 (2004) on WMDs. the importance of proportionate law
enforcement and security responses
9. To enhance cooperation,
and adequate criminal and reparative
coordination and investment in sec-
justice responses. This must include
urity and intelligence at the regional,
equality of all before the law, which will
transnational and international levels
help prevent further deepening of the
while ensuring effective democratic
victim complex that can be used by
control and civilian oversight, includ-
extremists to recruit.
ing holistic parliamentary oversight,
is developed and maintained on
such processes.
We resolve:
11. To ensure the adoption of domestic
10. To develop and strengthen legislation that incorporates the def-
mechanisms to guarantee the initions of mass atrocity crimes and
accountability of security forces violent extremism, taking into account
and those who control them and, to available model and reference laws
this effect, undertake to pose rel- (e.g., reference law to domesticate the
evant parliamentary questions to the crimes and general principles of law
Executive and arrange dedicated contained in the Rome Statute of the
Committee hearings. International Criminal Court developed
by PGA).
III. On Ending Impunity for Violent
12. To ensure effective national efforts
Extremists and Perpetrators of Mass
to investigate and prosecute inter-
Atrocities and Ensuring Justice for
national crimes under the Rule of Law
the Victims
and guarantee that counter-terror-
We observe that impunity for ism policies and regulations respect
perpetrators of mass atrocities human rights.
serves to increase the likelihood of
13. To develop reparations
new crimes and we underline the
mechanisms and introduce rehabili-
importance of national and inter-
tation programmes for victims of
national jurisdiction. We recognize
extremist non-state actors, including
that all states have a duty to pros-
women, children and marginalized
ecute or extradite suspects and
populations, and facilitate their
alleged perpetrators of international
reintegration into society, particularly
crimes in national or international

48 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities

through the systematic use of We resolve:
child-protection professionals and 15. To affirm our unwavering and
other appropriate psycho-social unconditional support for parliament-
and educational personnel that ary institutions that are threatened
can adequately and sustainably and attacked by repressive regimes,
provide therapeutic and empower- as forcefully denounced in this
ment programmes and help prevent Milan Forum.
re-occurrence of atrocity crimes
16. To ratify and domesticate all
and recidivism.
relevant human rights treaties on the
14. To ensure that evidence and exercise of fundamental freedoms and
documentation concerning the perpe- democracy as well as to support par-
tration of crimes under International liamentarians who are threatened and
Law is collected and preserved in whose fundamental rights are violated.
respect of all relevant situations in
such a way as to make such evidence IV. On promoting strong and healthy
and documentation available for trials civil societies and protecting the
and other accountability processes Rights of Minorities and other
aimed at putting an end to impunity for Vulnerable Groups
crimes that threaten the peace, secur- We recognize that enabling
ity and well-being of the world. environments for civil society and
the existence of a free press without
IV. On preventing violent repression any censorship reduce the appeal of
that may bring about the perpetration violent extremism, and that ensuring
of atrocity-crimes and facilitate the the inclusion and rights of individuals
surge of violent extremism and communities, including minorities
We emphasize the fact that authori- and vulnerable groups, prevents the
tarian and repressive regimes are real or perceived exclusion conducive
an enormous threat to open and to violent extremism. We acknowledge
democratic societies and, as such, that shrinking space for civil society,
may create conditions that can lead to including freedom of expression and
the perpetration of mass atrocities and assembly, can lead to support for
facilitate the recruitment into violent violent extremist actors.
extremist movements of oppressed
segments of the population, especially We resolve:
youth. We underline that democrat- 17. To engage in dialogue with civil
ically-elected parliaments and the society, communities, and commun-
respect of the rights of the opposition ity and faith leaders in order to build
are the prime institutional defenses trusting relationships to prevent the
against this threat.

A Handbook for Parliamentarians 49

emergence of violent extremism, our pre-election conflict prevention
reject violent ideologies and protect dialogue with political parties on their
individuals from recruitment. responsibility to avoid hate speech,
the radicalization of the electorate,
18. To defend and extend civic
and violence against women, youth
participation, and develop joint and
and vulnerable groups, especially
participatory strategies, such as
during electoral campaigns, as well as
intercultural dialogue, to enhance
enhancing our post-electoral follow
the capacity of communities to be
up of election observation recom-
proactive in preventing mass atrocities
mendations to ensure root causes
and violent extremism.
of conflict are addressed, including
19. To use all Parliamentary means, through legislation that addresses
including in observing elections the full implementation of elections
and preparing legislation for free observation recommendations.
and fair elections, by enhancing

We appreciate the support provided to PGA by its partners and recognize the
invaluable importance of information and strategies provided to us during PGA’s
Milan Forum for Parliamentary Action in Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass
Atrocities. In addition to this Plan of Action, individual legislators will be working
with the PGA Secretariat in the elaboration of country-specific and, as appropri-
ate, regional and sub-regional Action Plans and strategies.

We recall the objectives of the PGA’s vision is “to contribute to the creation
of a Rules-Based International Order for a more equitable, safe and
democratic world.”

We, the Participants in the Milan Forum for Parliamentary Action in Preventing
Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities, have agreed on this Milan Plan of Action
and are committed to keeping the PGA Secretariat informed on a periodic basis
of all the actions and initiatives that we will carry out to implement its objectives,
as well as report back on the results of the 39th Annual Parliamentary Forum of
Parliamentarians for Global Action within a six month period from its conclusion.

39th Session of the Annual Parliamentary Forum of Parliamentarians for Global

Action Milan, 28 November 2017

50 Preventing Violent Extremism and Mass Atrocities

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of
Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd.
( He worked
as a senior strategic analyst at CSIS (Canadian
Security Intelligence Service) from 2001-
2015, specializing in violent Islamist-inspired
homegrown extremism and radicalization.
From 1983 to 2001 he was employed as a
senior multilingual analyst at Communications
Security Establishment, specialising in the Middle East. He also
served as senior special advisor in the National Security Directorate
at Public Safety Canada from 2013, focusing on community outreach
and training on radicalisation to violence until his retirement from the
civil service in May 2015, and as consultant for the Ontario Provincial
Police’s Anti-Terrorism Section (PATS) from May to October 2015.
Mr. Gurski has presented on violent Islamist-inspired homegrown
extremism and radicalisation across Canada and around the world.
He is the author of “The Threat from Within: Recognizing Al Qaeda-
inspired Radicalization and Terrorism in the West” (Rowman and
Littlefield 2015) “Western Foreign Fighters: the threat to homeland
and international security” (Rowman and Littlefield 2017), The Lesser
Jihads: taking the Islamist fight to the world (Rowman and Littlefield
2017) and the forthcoming An end to the ‘war on terrorism’. He
regularly blogs (Terrorism in Canada and the West – available on his
Web site) and tweets (@borealissaves) on terrorism. He is a professor
of intelligence in the School of Emergency Management (Security,
Intelligence and Counter Terrorism certificate programme) at George
Brown College in Toronto, an associate fellow at the International
Centre for Counter Terrorism (ICCT) in the Netherlands, a fellow at
Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School for International Affairs
(NPSIA), a digital fellow at the Montreal Institute for Genocide Studies
at Concordia University and an affiliate of the Canadian network for
research on Terrorism Security and Society (TSAS). Mr. Gurski is a
regular commentator on terrorism and radicalisation for a wide variety
of Canadian and international media and is a voracious consumer
of mass media, as well as academic literature, on terrorism and
radicalisation to violence in order to be in a position to advise clients
of Borealis.