Office of the Prime Minister
Briefing note from: Senior Advisers International and National Security
We support PM&C’s proposal for a deradicalisation program for the foreign fighters returning from the Middle East to mitigate the risk that they will commit terrorist acts in Australia. We do not support PM&C’s proposal to commit to refrain from further prosecution if foreign fighters successfully complete the deradicalisation program.
Summary of brief: As discussed in the National Security Committee on 22 December 2015, with the defeat of Daesh, around 250 suspected Daesh fighters will shortly return to Australia. We cannot prevent their return and probably cannot jail them. We can seek control orders including tracking devices and regularly reporting to security personnel. However, this is costly and will not resolve the issue. A deradicalisation program tied to our Countering Violent Extremism program will likely mitigate the risk of terrorist acts on their return. The program would bring together successful elements of deradicalisation programs in the UK, Spain, Italy, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. If you agree, we suggest you announce the program alongside State and Territory and community leaders.
Sensitivities: The Opposition and media are likely to portray this as being soft on terrorists. Suggest we emphasise that this is our best option, it ties in with our efforts to counter violent extremism and intelligence and police forces will be keeping a close watch on them.
2. The number of returning foreign fighters (RFFs) and their likely concentration in Western Sydney and South Eastern Melbourne will present a significant challenge for Australian security services.
3. Due to evidence requirements, attempts at incarceration are unlikely to succeed. In any case incarceration could risk radicalising other prisoners.
4. We understand the Attorney-General has sought control orders including tracking devices and regular reporting to security officials.
a. Under the Criminal Code Act 1995, the Attorney-General may request that a court impose a control order in order to protect the public from a terrorist act or to prevent the provision of support for or facilitation of a terrorist act.
b. To grant the control order a court must be satisfied, on balance of probabilities, that an individual has received or participated in training with Daesh, or engaged in hostile activity in a foreign country. ASIO and the Australian Government Solicitor advise that they have evidence likely to satisfy a court.
5. In addition to control orders, we recommend a deradicalisation program. However, control orders cannot include involuntary participation in a deradicalisation program.
6. It may be necessary to seek highly restrictive control orders for non-participants, as they present a greater risk and are less likely to deradicalise. Less restrictive control orders for participants would provide an incentive for participation.
7. We consider the deradicalisation program would be best administered by the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) alongside the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) so the programs can mutually reinforce each other and share lessons learnt.
a. Information gained from RFFs participating in the deradicalisation program may provide insights for CVE and other counter-terrorism efforts.
8. If you agree, PM&C will work with AGD on a Cabinet submission for the Attorney-General to bring forward. Key elements of the proposed program are below.
Deradicalisation program 9. We recommend the deradicalisation program be built around the following elements, all of which have been shown in other context to increase the likelihood that an individual will disengage from a terrorist group or deradicalise. We consider disengagement an important goal noting it may lead to deradicalisation,
a. Staffing would include security officials and representatives from the Islamic community to provide positive interactions with officials and mentors. Contact with moderate thinkers and officials has been shown to encourage al-Qaeda members to disengage from that group and may increase the probability of deradicalisation.
b. Regular theological discussions facilitated by Muslim chaplains committed to non-violence to question the ideology of Islamic extremists and provide new social networks – the UK has successfully employed this approach in prison populations.c. Training and employment programs – this appears to have been successful in Saudi Arabia and may provide access to a broader, non-violent, social network.
d. Counselling for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is likely as they may have witnessed or participated in atrocities and may lack support networks.
e. A commitment not to further prosecute participants who successfully complete the program, unless they reoffend. Amnesties have significantly reduced terrorism in Spain and Italy and prosecution is unlikely to be successful in any case. Communications strategy
10. Deradicalisation, rather than attempts to incarcerate RFFs, is likely to be controversial. We will work with your office to craft a communications strategy outlining:
a. The evidence needed to incarcerate RFFs is not available and the Government cannot legally prevent them from returning to Australia. b. Deradicalisation has been successful in other countries and can reduce the risk of terrorist violence perpetrated by RFFs. c. All RFFs will be closely watched by security services. d. The Government will seek control orders for all RFFs including the requirement to wear tracking devices report to case managers.
[name] Counter-Terrorism Coordinator OCTC 23 December 2016
Policy Officer: [name] Phone no: [number] Consultation: Domestic Security Branch, ASIO, AGD, DFAT, DIBP.