Indonesia regrets the U.S. veto of a U.N. resolution that Jakarta sponsored calling for the prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of people engaged in terrorism-related activities, officials said Wednesday.
Washington said it rejected the U.N. Security Council resolution on Monday because the document did not call for the repatriation from Syria and Iraq of foreign fighters for the extremist group known as Islamic State (IS).
Febrian Ruddyard, director general of multilateral cooperation at the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the reason for the omission was that not all countries were capable of bringing back militants.
“We really regret that this veto was only based on the [issue of] repatriation of ex-militants and ignored things that are bigger and important than that,” Febrian told BenarNews on Wednesday.
Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, categorically said in February that it would not take back citizens who had traveled to the Middle East to join the ranks of IS, but would consider allowing in some of their children.
“There is no consensus on the matter of repatriation. Why? All countries are not necessarily ready in terms of infrastructure, and in the absence of legislation in some countries, this will take time,” Febrian said.
The U.S., one of the council’s five permanent members with veto power, was the sole dissenter on the resolution that was approved by 14 of its members.
Like Indonesia, some Western European allies of the United States, including Belgium, Britain and France, are not in favor of bringing back IS fighters and their families. Some have said they may allow orphans and some children back.
These countries believe repatriation is a risk to their national security. “We are working closely with international partners to reduce the risk posed to us collectively by foreign fighters,” a UK Foreign Office spokesperson told the Associated Press after the vote on the resolution.
An English copy of the draft resolution, obtained by BenarNews, lists detailed steps that all member countries should uniformly take to deal with terrorists and the terror threat.
However, not once does it mention the word “repatriation.” It does mention foreign terrorist fighters, or FTFs, and “welcomes the ongoing efforts of Member States aimed at bringing FTFs to justice in a manner consistent with international law, including through international cooperation and regional partnerships.”
The resolution introduced by Indonesia also supports the return of children, by encouraging member countries to facilitate “the return of the children to their countries of origin, as appropriate and on a case-by-case basis.”
Febrian said the resolution was about agreement on a blueprint on how to deal with the terrorism threat in general.
For Kelly Craft, the U.S. envoy to the U.N., the absence of any reference to “repatriation” was a non-starter for Washington. Repatriation from Syria and Iraq of foreign fighters for IS and their families to their countries of origin is “the crucial first step” in their prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration, she said.
“It is incomprehensible that other members of this Council were satisfied with a resolution that ignores the security implications of leaving foreign terrorist fighters to plot their escape from limited detention facilities and abandoning their family members to suffer in camps without recourse, opportunities, or hope,” Craft said in a statement issued by the United States Mission to the United Nations on Monday.
“If, as this resolution suggests, the goal of the Council is to address the drivers of terrorism, how can we ignore these obvious breeding grounds for the next generation of ISIS fighters?” she added, using a different acronym for Islamic State.
‘Incomprehensible view of one’
Febrian and Dian Triansyah Djani, the Indonesian ambassador to the United Nations, said the resolution could serve as a guide for U.N. member-states to handle terrorism effectively.
“A PRR [prosecution, rehabilitation, and reintegration] resolution, if adopted, would have become a key tool for the Council, and all Member States of the U.N., as well as the U.N. system, to have a comprehensive and long term strategy in countering terrorist acts and violent extremism conducive to terrorism, and preventing recurrence of terrorist acts,” Dian said.
He said he didn’t understand the U.S. objection.
“As a country that has been a victim as well as in the frontline on the fight against terrorism, Indonesia fails to understand that when the world continues to be besieged by the grave threat of terrorism to international peace and security, an important initiative that has added value in addressing this serious threat has not enjoyed acceptance in the Council, due to the incomprehensible view of one,” the Indonesian ambassador said in a statement.
Craft however said that “failing to address head on the importance of repatriation will inevitably perpetuate the problem of terrorism.”
The U.S. leads by example because it brings back its citizens and prosecutes them where appropriate, the American representative to the U.N. said.
“All nations need to take responsibility for their citizens who engage in terror,” she said.
Craft also quoted U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who had said in August 2019 that the U.S. wanted every country to bring back its citizens. “That’s step one. It’s imperative that they do so,” Pompeo said.
Hundreds remain in Mid-East camps
Between 400 and 600 Indonesian terrorist fighters and their dependents are still overseas, according to the government, which gets its data from foreign intelligence agencies. Most of them are believed to be in three Syrian camps where more than 70,000 mainly women and children connected to IS fighters are detained.
In June, Boy Rafli Amar, the head of Indonesia’s National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), said the government had identified 80 children of Indonesian IS fighters in countries Turkey, Iraq and Syria. But he didn’t say if the children would be repatriated. The issue is being discussed, he said.
In April, the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based conflict resolution think-tank, reported that 66,000 women and children were in Syria’s Al-Hol camp and 4,000 were in a camp in Roj.
Most of them were relatives of IS extremists, and a majority were either Syrians or Iraqis with around 13,500 from other countries, the group said. And the detention sites were “ridden with tuberculosis and perilously overcrowded, with one speaking of `dramatic mortality rates,” it said.