Kazakhstan conference urges more attention to online recruiting

By Ksenia Bondal


Participants discuss prosecuting terrorism-related offenses at a March 28 judicial seminar in Almaty. [Sud.gov.kz]

ALMATY -- Kazakhstani judges are urging more attention to the growing threat of online extremist recruitment.

The judges reached that conclusion during a March 28-30 conference in Almaty of judges from various countries, including Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The purpose of the gathering was to share experiences in hearing terrorism cases.

"During the past two years, extremist organisations have made websites their primary recruiting base," said Olga Zudova, senior regional legal advisor to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Regional Office for Central Asia, during the first day of the seminar. The UNODC and Supreme Court of Kazakhstan co-organised the event.

"Extremist and terrorist organisations vigorously seek recruits through websites," said Abai Rakhmetulin, chairman of the Supreme Court Judicial Committee for Criminal Cases, in his speech. "Moreover, recruiters manage to raise money for their 'pious' activities. These sorts of crimes are trans-national, so we need countries to team up to stop them."

"As far as the nation's counter-terrorism laws go, we have considerable room to improve," retired National Security Committee (KNB) Col. Arat Narmanbetov of Almaty told Caravanserai.

Mobile internet, new strategies for online recruiting

Cyber-crime is one of the most troubling areas for the international community, Anvar Tugel, president of the Astana-based Union of Lawyers of Kazakhstan, told Caravanserai.

"That's why I think that during the seminar international experts informed our judges and prosecutors on how to gather evidence for these sorts of crimes and how to evaluate that evidence during court hearings," Tugel said.

"With the development of mobile internet, extremist recruiting has become more ... adaptive to the personality of the individual [sought as a recruit]," Rasul Rysmambetov, a security specialist from Almaty, told Caravanserai.

"A 2015 report from the UN indicates that the vigorous online activities of illegal terrorist organisations such as ISIL ['Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant'] ... have caused enormous growth in the number of terrorists," said Zudova.

However, as counter-terrorism agencies gain experience and competence, the successful concealment of potential terrorists has been made more difficult, said Rysmambetov.

Recruiting women, children

"Female recruitment is a pressing problem around the world; 550 European women have moved to ISIL-controlled territory," said Zudova. "In some countries, women make up 10-20% of the total number of militants and terrorists."

By recruiting mothers, terrorists gain control of their children, added Rysmambetov.

"[Terrorists] turn children into spies to observe [security at buildings and other facilities]," said Rysmambetov. "Because they're so young, they become very loyal."

The human cost of repairing the damage can be high.

It is time consuming to de-programme radicalised individuals, Alim Shaumetov, director of Akniyet, an Astana centre for rehabilitating radicals, told Cararavanserai.

"[It] takes anywhere from 1 to 18 months," he said.

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