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Joint initiative on “Supporting the management of violent extremist prisoners (VEPs) and the prevention of radicalization to violence in prisons”

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Since 2018, CTED has worked closely together with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) on a joint initiative entitled “Supporting the Management of Violent Extremist Prisoners (VEPs) and the Prevention of Radicalization to Violence in Prisons”.

The beneficiary States of this four-year initiative (2018-2021) are Kazakhstan, Tunisia and Uganda. The initiative focuses on prisoners, prison authorities and other relevant State bodies.

Radicalization to violence in prisons and the management of VEPs remain a major concern for the international community. The challenge of ensuring effective management of VEPs has grown substantially in recent years, as the number of individuals (including foreign terrorist fighters) prosecuted and convicted for terrorism-related offences has increased.

Preventing the radicalization towards violence of vulnerable prisoners and ensuring effective management of those serving prison sentences for terrorism-related offences is extremely challenging, with respect both to the potential security risk (whether inside or outside of the prison environment) and to the prisoners’ rehabilitation and eventual reintegration into society. This work requires an interdisciplinary and multilateral approach that draws upon the whole of society, including Government, law-enforcement agencies, correctional systems, and civil society.

The VEP project was developed in response to those challenges, based on the belief that the challenges posed by VEPs should be addressed in full compliance with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (“Nelson Mandela Rules”) through an age- and gender-sensitive approach.

Although the prison environment is frequently viewed as a potential incubator for radicalization to violence, the Security Council recognizes, in its resolution 2395 (2017), that prisons can also serve to rehabilitate and reintegrate prisoners, where appropriate, and that Member States may need to continue to engage with offenders after their release from prison in order to prevent recidivism, in accordance with relevant international law and taking into consideration, where appropriate, the Nelson Mandela Rules.

Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, CTED, UNODC and UNCCT continue to work closely together to maximize the unique characteristics of the prison environment to enhance and strengthen the resilience of societies, VEPs, and those who may be vulnerable to radicalization to violence in the prison context.

For more information on the joint initiative and project activities, please see the 2021 Newsletter here.