15 October 2021


Counter-terrorism measures increasingly diverging from human rights standards, UN expert warns

NEW YORK (13 October 2021) – Efforts to improve counter-terrorism measures around the world are damaging human rights and the rule of law, a UN expert told the General Assembly today, calling for greater accountability as countries build institutions to combat terrorism.

"I am deeply concerned by the increasing tendency to neglect fundamental rights and freedoms when addressing terrorism issues," said Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. "This has a severe impact on the integrity of the rule of law and governance."

She made the comments in presenting a report suggesting ways human rights should be put at the heart of training and technical assistance aimed at combatting terrorism at the national, regional and global levels.

"Counter-terrorism capacity-building and technical assistance are increasingly diverging from international human rights standards," Ní Aoláin said. "Twenty years after tragic events of September 11, with an unprecedented growth in funding for counter-terrorism, the situation is steadily getting worse.

"We are in dire need of an overhaul of capacity-building and technical assistance so that efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism are not only effective, but also respect human rights and are transparent and accountable." She said UN bodies have an important role to play in this effort.

"The growth in counter-terrorism institutions, frameworks and programming must be matched by meticulous attention to human rights and rule of law, and the implementation of appropriate monitoring and oversight strategies," Ní Aoláin said. "Capacity-building and technical assistance that are compliant with human rights and the rule of law can actually help prevent the conditions conducive to the emergence of sustained violence in society."


Afghanistan crisis worsening as temperatures drop, warns UNHCR

The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is worsening and funding for emergency aid is urgently needed to help 20 million people there, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Tuesday.

The Secretary-General’s comments came ahead of Tuesday’s G20 meeting of leading industrialized nations, whose leaders were due to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, where the Taliban ousted the Government on 15 August. 

Speaking from Kabul, UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch said that the agency was trying to establish a logistics hub just outside Afghanistan’s border to distribute aid to the country’s many hundreds of thousands of internally displaced. “So, resources are really needed to reach more and more Afghans, I mean, when you talk about half of the population relying on humanitarian assistance; 20 million, that number is rising day by day,” he said.


A marked global gender gap in terms of internet use continues to grow, but from Syria to Costa Rica, girls are increasingly pushing back to try and narrow the gap. 

The gender gap for online users has widened from 11 per cent in 2013 to 17 per cent in 2019, and in the world’s least developed countries, it reaches 43 per cent. This year, to mark International Day of the Girl Child, taking place on Monday, the UN is showing how the pandemic has accelerated the use of digital platforms, but also highlighting girls’ different realities when it comes to getting online.

“Girls have equal ability and immense potential in these fields, and when we empower them, everyone benefits,” the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. “Investments in closing the digital gender divide yield huge dividends for all.” 

Tied to this, the UN has a new platform, called Generation Equality Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation, where governments, civil society, the private sector and young leaders, are coming together to support girls’ digital access, skills and creativity. 



INTERPOL launches new cyber awareness campaign:
Keeping cybercriminals out: #JustOneClick can make all the difference

SINGAPORE – Whether it’s in a business or personal setting, INTERPOL wants you to remember that cybercrime is often just a single click, tap or swipe away.

Launched today, the campaign will alert the public to key tactics behind today’s major cyberthreats, highlighting that #JustOneClick can make all the difference when it comes to protecting your computer systems, networks and personal information from cybercriminals.

The three-week awareness campaign (4-22 October) will be run primarily through social media. It will highlight the top threats identified by INTERPOL’s Cybercrime Programme, based on the data collected from member countries, private-sector partners under the Gateway framework, national cybersecurity agencies and online information-sharing groups. The campaign also benefits from the expertise of INTERPOL’s Financial Crime Unit and INTERPOL Global Financial Crime Task Force.

With cyber threats becoming increasingly sophisticated, in addition to increased levels of remote work and dependence on digital devices, the campaign will focus on:

  • Ransomware
  • Online scams and phishing
  • Business Email Compromise

Basic cyber hygiene advice will be provided throughout the campaign, to ensure that individuals and businesses are equipped with the knowledge of how to protect their systems and data.

Joining the campaign are authorities in more than 70 member countries. A number of private-sector partners, international organizations such as UNODC and World Economic Forum, and non-profits are also supporting the campaign by sharing information on recent cases, as well as on tools available to help members of public protect their systems from this threat.

Craig Jones, INTERPOL’s Director of Cybercrime, said: “We click, tap or swipe hundreds of times a day, often automatically. This campaign seeks to remind the public that we should pay attention to all our actions online, even just one click. Remaining vigilant is the best way to prevent cybercrime and keep our cyberspace safe.

We are grateful for the support and interest of our member countries, partners as well as the general public in this endeavour to reduce the impact of cybercrime.”

The campaign is supported by the African Joint Operation against Cybercrime (AFJOC) funded by the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).


Mobilizing global action against intellectual property crime

LYON, France – With a clear link between illicit trade networks and other types of crime, such as human trafficking, drug trafficking, corruption, bribery and money laundering, illicit trade is a global phenomenon with underlying activities across multiple countries and crime areas.

In this respect, law enforcement officials, public sector representatives, as well as security and industry experts from all regions are meeting to boost combined efforts and best practices against the fast-evolving trade in fake and pirated goods.

The 14th International Law Enforcement Intellectual Property (IP) Crime Conference (11 - 13 October) has gathered over 1,000 participants from some 120 countries to address the enforcement challenges posed by digital piracy, the health and safety aspects of IP crime, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event is co-hosted virtually by Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Department and INTERPOL, in partnership with UL (Underwriters Laboratories Inc.)

- A transnational organized crime

The trade in fake and pirated goods is a transnational crime, run by extensive and complex criminal enterprises.

Criminal groups manufacture and sell a wide range of illicit goods and medicines, endangering the public worldwide with substandard and often dangerous products.

The impact is felt across the whole of society and nations. Counterfeiting harms businesses which produce and sell legitimate products; and governments lose tax revenue from products manufactured or sold on the black market.

Keynote speaker Costa Rica’s President Carlos Alvarado Quesada said at the meeting: “Intellectual property is a fundamental pillar for the economic, social and cultural growth and development of our country and any nation in the world; without a doubt we are talking about a tool which helps boost productivity, innovation and competitiveness.”

“It is important that governments commit to developing intellectual property training programmes and enforcement procedures, and shape best practices for the various police, judicial and administrative bodies so that they can effectively support intellectual property rights holders and put in place more effective contingency measures against alleged IP crime infringements,” added President Quesada.

- Shaping a coordinated response

INTERPOL provides operational and investigative support against IP crime and the global trade in illicit goods, collecting data and disseminating intelligence, coordinating transnational law enforcement operations, and supporting multi-agency task forces to improve cooperation between police, customs, regulatory bodies and the private sector.

“With illicit markets expanding globally, INTERPOL’s role is fundamental in facilitating capacity building and enabling a coordinated response. This includes regional and global operations aimed at dismantling the transnational organized crime groups involved in illicit trafficking,” said Secretary General Jürgen Stock.

“COVID-19 has brought a stronger public awareness of illicit markets with criminals exploiting every stage of the pandemic. From creating websites and social media accounts claiming to sell protective equipment and medical supplies, to the manufacture and distribution of fake vaccines as well as ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure,” added the Head of INTERPOL.

With online copyright piracy a growing threat around the world, INTERPOL recently launched its Stop Online Piracy (I-SOP) initiative to counter online piracy and crimes involving intellectual property rights infringements, identify and dismantle illicit online marketplaces, target criminal networks and confiscate their assets.

The initiative will coordinate the global law enforcement response to digital piracy which can be highly lucrative for criminals with very low risk. It also has a negative impact on the creative sector and economies, ultimately affecting consumers.

- Online training and best practices

To keep pace with the fast-evolving criminal world, police and stakeholders need to continually upgrade their skills, be capable of leveraging high-tech tools and have the latest data at their fingertips.

Through its global network, INTERPOL provides capacity building via its online International IP Crime Investigators College (IIPCIC) in its Capacity Building and Training Directorate, facilitating access to specialized training and best practice sharing.



Network selling fake financial services online taken down

The criminal organisations used 250 domains and two call centres to lure German investors

Law enforcement and judicial authorities from Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany, the Netherlands and Ukraine, supported by Europol and Eurojust, teamed up against an organised crime group involved in binary fraud. The group was behind an online trading platform for financial services with binary options. Europol set up an Operational Task Force to support the cross-border investigation. 

The action day on 6 October 2021 in Kiev, Limassol and Sofia led to: 8 house searches (5 in Bulgaria, 1 in Cyprus, 2 in Ukraine); 17 individuals questioned in Bulgaria, one high value target arrested in Cyprus; seizures included phones, electronic equipment, bank accounts and data back-ups. 

At least € 15 million lost on fake options. 

Operating between May 2019 and September 2021, the criminal network lured German investors into making transactions worth a total of at least € 15 million. The suspects advertised the financial services online and via social media, while using over 250 domain names.

The criminal network connected to a company, based in Ukraine, set up a call centre in Bulgaria. The approximately 100 employees of the two call centres, located in Sofia, contacted “clients” and advertised pretend financial services in the field of binary options under the guise of financial advisers. To undertake the scam, the call centre employees had scripts containing predefined conversations and key messaging to convince clients to release more funds. However, a subsequent investigation suggests that most of the employees were not aware that the company they were working for was involved in a fraud scheme. Initial profits shown in the user interface encouraged the clients to invest large sums of money. However, clients did not receive payment of their winnings or credit balance once they requested it. The investigation has so far led to 246 criminal proceedings across 15 German federal states. 

To support the investigation, Europol set up a dedicated Operational Task Force through which it facilitated the information exchange and provided analytical support. During the action days, Europol deployed six experts to Bulgaria, Cyprus and Ukraine to cross-check operational information in real-time against Europol’s databases so as to provide leads to investigators in the field. The experts also provided technical expertise to enable the extraction of information from mobile devices and IT infrastructure.

Eurojust hosted a coordination centre to facilitate the information exchange and support cooperation between involved authorities during the action day. 


18 arrested as police across Europe seize 350 firearms

Following a complex investigation supported by Europol, the Dutch National Police (Politie) together with the Czech National Organised Crime Agency (Národní centrála proti organizovanému zločinu) and the Slovak National Crime Agency (Národná kriminálna agentúra) swooped on a gun trafficking gang, arresting 6 of its members this past month in the framework of Operational Taskforce LOS. Two members of the criminal gang were arrested in Slovakia on 13 September, followed by the arrest on 5 October of 4 other members in the Netherlands (2) and the Czech Republic (2). All these suspects were considered as High-Value Targets by Europol. 

The criminal syndicate under investigation specialised in the conversion of so-called Flobert guns into lethal live-firing ones. They are believed to have supplied over 1 500 firearms to criminal groups in the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Portugal, Sweden and the Czech Republic. 

The investigation was initiated after 22 firearms were seized in February 2020 in Hoek van Holland, the Netherlands, in a transport vehicle on its way to the United Kingdom. The weapons were all in a live-firing state. 

In order to bring these gun traffickers to justice, an Operational Taskforce was established at Europol between the Netherlands, Slovakia, Belgium, Spain, Germany, Austria, Poland and the United Kingdom. 

Since then, over 350 weapons sold by these criminals have been recovered, including submachine guns and assault rifles, alongside several thousand rounds of ammunition. Twelve other suspects have also already been arrested in the framework of this Taskforce for their involvement in this illegal-gun running operation. 

The evidence seized during the course of the latest action day is now being analysed to identify further investigative leads across Europe. Europol deployed three of its own experts to the action day in the Czech Republic, while also funding the deployment of three Dutch investigators. 

This action day was carried out in the framework of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT).


Afghan smuggling network dismantled in Romania and Germany

The German Federal Police (Bundespolizei) and the Romanian Police (Poliția Română), supported by Europol and Eurojust, dismantled an organised crime group involved in the migrant smuggling of predominantly Afghan nationals. 

Results from 5 October 2021: 19 locations searched (14 in Timisoara, 4 in Timiş county and 1 in Bucharest); 27 suspects identified, of which 21 suspects arrested (16 Afghan, 1 Iranian and 4 Romanian nationals); seizures include cash, 83 mobile phones, other electronic equipment and 10 morphine vials).

Up to € 2 000 to jumo off a lorry in Western Europe. The investigative activities suggest that the network had been operating in the Romanian counties Timiş and Arad since May 2020. The criminal network, composed mainly of Afghan nationals, was smuggling Afghan migrants recruited from refugee camps and other places where asylum seekers gather. The suspects are believed to have smuggled about 200 migrants from Romania to countries in Western Europe, mainly France and Germany. The network facilitated the illegal transport and accommodation at transit points. Migrants were paying between € 1 000 and € 2 000 for the dangerous trip in the back of large lorries. 

Hidden between goods such as tree trunks and pallets, the migrants endured low temperatures and inhuman conditions during several days of transport. German investigators from Rosenheim and Munich detected about 50 similar cases. According to the investigations, the truck drivers were not aware that they had people in the back of their trucks. While the drivers took their sleep breaks in Romania, the smugglers released the sealed ropes covering the doors of the trailers to make an opening. From there, the migrants were able to enter the loading area unnoticed. Once in Germany, they jumped off the truck when the drivers took breaks or unloaded the cargo.

Cross-border cooperation. Europol facilitated the exchange of information and provided operational coordination and analytical support. On the action day, Europol enabled a virtual command post to facilitate the real-time exchange of information. Europol also deployed an analyst to Romania to cross-check operational information against Europol’s databases to provide leads to investigators in the field. 

Eurojust set up a joint investigation team (JIT) between Germany, Romania and Europol to facilitate the judicial cooperation.