Arab interior and justice ministers met in Jeddah, in the Hijaz, on August 1 to establish structures for the implementation of the Arab treaty against ‘terrorism’ which came into force on May 7 following its ratification by seven Arab League member states. The ministers, members of the joint ministerial committee charged with translating the pact into an effective ‘security’ aparatus, set up a technical committee for the purpose, called for wider ratification of the pact by member states, and proposed the adoption of similar treaties in all regions of the world.
The gathering, chaired by prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi interior minister and honorary chairman of the joint ministerial committee, was attended by 10 interior and justice ministers, including Iraq’s minister of justice, Shabib al-Maliki - an indication of how desperate the organisers were for numbers to enhance the credibility of the exercise.
Dr Ahmad al-Sahian, secretary of the council of Arab interior ministers, was quick to deny allegations that the pact did not have the support of most Arab states. “There are no obstacles to the adherence of all Arab states to the treaty”, he said in newspaper interviews. “It is only a matter of time”. The pact was initialled by 22 countries, but only 11 have so far ratified it by depositing the required legal instruments with the secretariat of the council of Arab interior ministers.
Al-Sahian, who was put in charge of organizing the meetings of the new technical committee, said it would convene its first meeting in Tunis later this year. No decision had been made yet as to who would be the interior ministers joining the committee. That was left open to the member-states wishing to take part, he said.
The secretary general was also made responsible for following up the joint ministerial committee’s call on member-states to work for the conclusion of anti-terrorism treaties modelled on the Arab pact by other regional organizations and governments.
The Organization of African Unity (OAU), at a meeting of heads of state in Algiers in July, has already adopted a version of the Arab pact. It also adopted a motion by Egypt’s president Husni Mubarak that a world conference should be convened to combat ‘international terrorism’. Mubarak has made fighting ‘terrorism’ (a euphemism for combatting Islamic activism and the global Islamic movement) a personal battle. The Arab pact embodies his own ideas of how this crusade should be waged. It provides for the free extradition of ‘suspected terrorists’ between member states without any legal formality, and the Jeddah meeting has brought the day when that is feasible nearer by setting up the technical committee in charge of, among other things, processing applications for the arrest of and extradition of individuals.
Saudi Arabia and Egypt did not have to wait for that day; as the members of the joint ministerial committee arrived in Jeddah for its meeting, the kingdom extradited Majdi Ibrahim Sid al-Najar, an Egyptian legally resident in Saudi Arabia, to Egypt. His only crime: being the brother of Ahmad al-Najar, who had been sentenced to death in absentia in one of the several recent trials involving Egypt’s Islamic groups.
Muslimedia: August 16-31, 1999