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International Law

Legal and institutional mechanisms of cooperation in the field of combating terrorism within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Yadgarov Shakhrukh Shavkatovich

ORCID: 0009-0001-8354-7233

Postgraduate student of the International Law chair, Diplomatic Academy under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia

53/2 Ostozhenka str., Building 1, Moscow, 119021, Russia

Other publications by this author










Abstract: The article examines the activities of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the field of coordinating the activities of the member states in the fight against terrorism. The author considers the complex use of various international legal instruments tested in practice in the fight against terrorist crime. The theoretical basis of the study is the research of A.A. Sinyakina, E. Umarakhunova, E.A. Chernyadeva. To determine the main instruments in the fight against terrorism, were analyzed international legal documents adopted at the SCO summits, in particular the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism. In addition, as an example, were considered the structure and operation of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure established by the SCO. Based on the results, it is concluded that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is one of the most effective organizations in the field of combating terrorism due to the presence of specialized structures, such as RATS, and various legal documents.


Shanghai Cooperation Organization, fight against terrorism, international legal documents, Regional antiterrorist structure, international legal regulation, intergovernmental organizations, international legal agreement, interstate cooperation, Eurasian space, international legal organizations

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

At the present stage, the need for the most optimal organization of security provision based on the use of all instruments of international legal regulation, including the use of institutional mechanisms, is sharply increasing. A special role in the organization of security belongs to regional intergovernmental organizations, which allow accumulating the efforts of the participating States in the most optimal way, including by consolidating their obligations in international legal agreements, as well as creating institutional mechanisms for monitoring mutual obligations, which makes it possible to create practically effective legal foundations for interstate cooperation in the most key areas that meet the interests of humanity. One of the key players in the modern system of ensuring international law and order is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

At the same time, the SCO does not stand still and continues to develop steadily, increasing its role in solving international and regional problems, in maintaining peace, security and stability throughout the vast Eurasian space." [13]

At the present stage, the SCO has created the most important organizational and legal mechanisms of interstate cooperation, including international treaties, special convention bodies that facilitate the fulfillment by the member states of this organization of their international legal obligations, in connection with which we believe that the SCO skillfully and effectively uses all the progressive tools of methods of international law, including This includes a more dispositive method of regulation, which presupposes the sovereign right of States to adopt documents of both "soft law" and specific international treaties with the simultaneous establishment of institutional structures in order to create a unified legal space in key areas of cooperation. We should agree with E. Umarakhunov, who noted that "the sovereign equality of states when concluding treaties is mutual respect for sovereignty by States (subjects), which is based on equality in the exercise of legal capacity and legal capacity at the stages of concluding treaties. Sovereignty is the basic principle of international law, which is organically interrelated with the law of international treaties." [14, p.242.]

One of the key activities of the SCO is the coordination of the activities of the participating States in the fight against terrorism. The analysis shows that at the present stage terrorism has actually become the main threat to international peace and security. Double standards in assessing this phenomenon, declarative statements on combating terrorism and half-hearted anti-terrorist measures taken at the global and regional levels, direct assistance and support by individual States to international terrorist formations, the lack of prompt and timely coordination of the world community in the full-fledged fight against terrorism and uniform unified legal norms has led to the flourishing of organized criminal groups, E.A.Chernyadyeva rightly notes that terrorism in the 21st century has undergone fundamental changes associated with its high internationalization, a sharp increase in the degree of public danger of individual criminal episodes, and the transformation of its methods. The nature of the terrorist threat has changed significantly: attacks based on religious and nationalist contradictions have become particularly acute. It is obvious that the political and legal solution to the problem of terrorism involves the use of not only national, but also international mechanisms. It should be noted that the international community in many ways was not ready for such a turn of events. Despite the extensive international legal framework created to counter terrorism, it is not yet possible to talk about successful opposition to this evil. [15, p.63.]

Effective counteraction to international terrorism at the universal and regional level is possible only in the case of the integrated use of both the already proven international legal instruments and the experience of combating transnational organized crime. The fight against terrorists must be comprehensive and uncompromising. Along with eliminating the social and economic causes that give rise to these phenomena, it is necessary to do everything to neutralize the ideology of terrorism." [1]

MethodologyCountering terrorism within the framework of multilateral universal and regional cooperation, including within the framework of the SCO, is of a multilateral, comprehensive nature, covering all aspects of both preventing acts of terrorism and ensuring the inevitability of responsibility of persons involved in terrorist activities.

  According to one of the researchers of the international legal aspects of the fight against terrorism, A.A. Sinyakin, from the point of view of practice, States pursue specific goals, which consist in the need to develop such an international legal mechanism of cooperation that would allow: 1) to unify national legislation on the establishment of criminal liability for certain elements of the crime of terrorism; 2) to promptly exchange information for the prevention, suppression or investigation of acts of terrorism; 3) establish the legal basis for the provision of legal assistance; 4) exclude situations of evasion of responsibility due to the absence of appropriate legal regulation in the legislation of States; 5) determine the basis for establishing the jurisdiction of States in relation to acts of terrorism, including determining which State or States are authorized to investigate 6) establish the content, procedure and scope of operational measures in connection with the prevention, suppression or investigation of acts of terrorism; 7) coordinate efforts to eliminate the consequences of acts of terrorism. [4, p.63.]

Although A.A. Sinyakin in his research highlighted important areas of the fight against terrorism, meanwhile, it is hardly possible to call this list exhaustive. Of no small importance in our opinion are issues related to countering the financing of terrorism, organizing cooperation with other universal and regional structures focused on combating international terrorism, as well as ensuring the exchange of experience and continuous professional development of employees, especially in the fight against terrorist acts carried out in cyberspace, since the consequences of the latter can be much more dangerous nature, rather than traditional acts of terrorism.

It should be noted that almost from the very origins of the SCO's activities, a vector was taken for a comprehensive and resolute fight against terrorism, the creation of effective international legal mechanisms to combat this threat. Already in 2002, the SCO member States agreed that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization attaches priority importance to regional security and makes all necessary efforts to ensure it. The participating States will closely cooperate in order to implement the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism, including by establishing a regional anti-terrorist structure of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization with a location in Bishkek." [3]

Of particular importance is the adoption of the most important international legal document, the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Extremism and Separatism, almost at the first SCO summit, while the participating States in the convention were able to agree on the most problematic issue (17) in this direction - the definition of terrorism. The document defines it as an act aimed at causing the death of a civilian or any other person who does not take an active part in hostilities in a situation of armed conflict, or causing him serious bodily injury, as well as causing significant damage to any material object, as well as organizing, planning such acts, aiding and abetting its commission, incitement to it, when the purpose of such an act, by virtue of its nature or context, is to intimidate the population, violate public safety or force authorities or an international organization to commit an action or refrain from committing it, and prosecuted in accordance with the national legislation of the Parties. [16]

In the field of security, experience is being gained in practical interaction and cooperation in countering new challenges and threats. Work in the RATS, contacts and exchanges along the lines of military confidence-building measures are being deployed. The legal basis for cooperation is the Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism of June 15, 2001. In certain areas, it is specified in the developed new multilateral documents: the Agreement on the Procedure for Organizing and Conducting Joint Anti-terrorist Activities in the Territories of the SCO member States of 15.06.2006; the Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of identifying and Blocking Channels of Penetration into the Territories of the SCO member States of Persons Involved in Terrorist, Separatist and Extremist Activities of June 15, 2006 years. [6, p.213.]

Of particular importance is the creation of a Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure within the SCO (hereinafter referred to as the RATS), which made it possible to give a new very serious practical impetus to countering international terrorism within this organization. This institutional institution was established on the basis of the Agreement on the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure approved by the Council of Heads of SCO Member States on June 7, 2022 in St. Petersburg. In accordance with Article 3 of this Agreement, the RATS is a permanent body of the SCO and is designed to facilitate coordination and interaction of the competent authorities of the Parties in the fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism, as these acts are defined in the Convention.

The key tasks in accordance with Article 7 of the Agreement are:

— formation of the RATS data bank on international terrorist, separatist and other extremist organizations, their structure, leaders and participants, other persons involved in them, as well as sources and channels of their financing;

— the state, dynamics and trends of the spread of terrorism, separatism and extremism affecting the interests of the Parties; non-governmental organizations and persons supporting terrorism, separatism and extremism; 

— assistance in the preparation and conduct of operational search and other measures to combat terrorism, separatism and extremism at the request of the Parties;  

— assistance in the implementation of the international search for persons who allegedly committed the acts referred to in paragraph 1 of article 1 of the Convention, with a view to bringing them to criminal responsibility; participation in the preparation of international legal documents affecting the fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism;

— establishing and maintaining working contacts with international organizations dealing with the fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism, etc. [11]

The activities of the RATS have increased the effectiveness of countering international terrorism within the SCO to a completely different, qualitatively higher level. Statistics show that in 2011-2015 alone, the competent authorities of the SCO member states, with the coordinating role of the SCO RATS, prevented 20 terrorist attacks at the preparatory stage; suppressed about 650 crimes of a terrorist and extremist nature; liquidated 440 terrorist training bases and about 1,700 members of international terrorist organizations; detained more than 2,700 members of illegal armed formations, their accomplices and persons suspected of criminal activity; 213 persons involved in the activities of terrorist and extremist organizations were extradited, many of whom were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment; 180 persons were put on the wanted list; 600 caches and caches of weapons were identified, more than 3,250 improvised explosive devices, about 10 thousand weapons, about 450 thousand units were seized ammunition and more than 52 tons of explosives. Purposeful work is being carried out on an ongoing basis to counter the use of the Internet for terrorist, separatist and extremist purposes. [10]

Meanwhile, despite the serious organizational and legal efforts being made to counter terrorism within the SCO and its effectiveness, it is too early to talk about final success. The hotbeds of tension in Central Asia, the qualitative change in the nature and danger of modern terrorism, the growing growth and strengthening of terrorist formations pose serious challenges to the security and stability of the organization's member States, require further deepening and development of the regulatory framework for countering terrorism, practical interaction between special services and law enforcement agencies, closer interaction both within the organization and beyond it. As the researchers rightly point out, the effectiveness of the SCO in countering terrorism and extremism will certainly be determined not by the degree of refinement of the wording of the program documents, but by the potential accumulated over 15 years of real, practical interaction between the member states in a fairly closed "field" and the level of trust of partners in each other. [5, p.99]

In the Tashkent Declaration of the heads of the SCO member states, great concern was noted in connection with a new sharp surge in terrorism and extremism. Various countries and regions of the world are becoming targets of terrorists. Terrorism adapts flexibly to the situation, applies modern technical means, and is ready to use any unresolved conflicts to its advantage. The global threat of terrorism should be countered by a global counteraction system with the UN as its central core, which should be based on regional, sub-regional and national structures. At the same time, it is important not only to give an adequate response to terrorist actions, but also to work proactively.

...answers to the complex challenges of our time – be it international terrorism or regional conflicts and crises – can and should be found on the foundations of multilateralism and cooperation, while respecting the norms and principles of international law. Only such an approach will ensure international security and stability in the context of globalization. The SCO firmly intends to be guided by these principles in its activities and expresses its readiness to actively cooperate with all States and multilateral organizations united on this conceptual basis. [12]

Research resultsAs it is rightly noted in the literature, modern terrorism is not only and not so much single saboteurs, hijackers and kamikaze killers, these are powerful structures with equipment corresponding to their scale.

The examples of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Chechnya and the powerful patrons behind them show that terrorist groups are capable of conducting sabotage and terrorist actions, participating in large-scale armed conflicts. [7, p.87.]

That is why, in conditions of a significant increase in the public danger of terrorism, the creation of even their own states by terrorists in vast territorial spaces, the establishment and deepening of cooperation between the SCO and other universal and regional organizations, especially with the United Nations, is of the utmost importance.   Cooperation with the UN is manifested both in the recognition of the Charter and principles of this organization as the basis of the international legal order, and in the establishment of cooperation in the fight against terrorism, through practical interaction in specific areas. As the SCO Secretary General R. Alimov noted, the SCO's commitment to the lack of alternative to the political and diplomatic settlement of conflict situations on the basis of strict observance of universally recognized norms and principles of international law, strict observance of the purposes and principles of the UN Charter remains unshakable. In this regard, the Organization continues to advocate for strengthening the central coordinating role of the UN in international relations, attaches particular importance to the progressive development and strengthening of cooperation with the World Organization, its specialized institutions and institutions.

Special events held in cooperation with the UN and the SCO are becoming a significant practical contribution to strengthening international cooperation in combating threats and challenges to security. This was clearly confirmed by the results of joint high-level special events: "The UN and the SCO: joint counteraction to challenges and threats" in November 2016 in New York, as well as organized jointly with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime – "The UN and the SCO in the fight against drugs: common threats, joint actions" in March 2017 in Vienna. [8]

In December 2014, the SCO was granted observer status at the UN General Assembly [2, p.116.], which not only testifies to the open nature of the SCO, its cooperation and interest in cooperation with other states and international organizations, but is an objective necessity to establish multilateral cooperation in the field of international security, combating terrorism, implementation of specific organizational and legal measures, including information exchange, improvement of the international legal framework for anti-terrorist cooperation, bringing real practical results.

Thus, the UNGA resolution A75/69, "Cooperation between the United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization", adopted at the 75th session of the Assembly, highlighted the efforts of the member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to strengthen cooperation in the field of combating terrorism, including within the framework of the Regional Anti—Terrorist Structure, noted the cooperation between the Regional Anti-Terrorist The Shanghai Cooperation Organization structure and the Counter-Terrorism Directorate, including with the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Center, in the implementation of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, and cooperation between the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure and the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, and taking note of the memorandum of understanding on cooperation between these two structures signed on March 25, 2019 year. [9]

It is also important to continue the organizational and legal work to combat new manifestations of international terrorism, including the use of modern information technologies (cyberterrorism). M.O.Shaldina rightly noted that along with the development of information technologies and the speed of their introduction into various spheres of life, the risk of threats in the field of Internet space also increases, new forms of cyberterrorism as a socially dangerous phenomenon are observed [18].

It should be noted that countering cyberterrorism as one of the most dangerous manifestations of international terrorism at the present stage within the SCO needs constant monitoring and improvement. The existing international institutional and contractual mechanisms for combating terrorism within the SCO are focused on traditional types of terrorism and are quite effective in this direction. At the same time, cyberterrorism is a growing threat that can actually disable not only vital social infrastructure facilities, but also lead to the seizure of control of military facilities and weapons.  Despite this circumstance, unfortunately, there is a serious gap in the international legal regulation of the fight against cyberterrorism within the SCO, as well as around the world, as experts have repeatedly noted.  V.M.Shumilov rightly noted: "The modern international legal regulatory framework does not keep pace with the development of scientific and technological progress, which is best seen by the example of cyberspace and developments in the field of artificial intelligence. The new framework should be "proactive" in nature: it should imply instruments for regulating legal relations that may arise in the near future, but now exist only in an "inchoate state".

The main advantages of such documents should be a simplified procedure for their adoption, as well as the active use of model agreements and model laws, so that in the event of a situation described in the document, it would be enough to hold only one voting procedure at the UN General Assembly, only one meeting of SCO leaders or only one day of work of the legislative bodies of several states interested in a single approach to the legal regulation of these issues." [19].

ConclusionThus, the SCO is one of the most effective international institutional entities in the field of combating terrorism due to the existence of both regulatory and legal frameworks, as well as specialized anti-terrorist internal bodies coordinating the actions of States in countering terrorism.

The growing threat of terrorism, changes in its forms and public danger objectively dictates the need for constant work and improvement of the SCO's activities in this direction, and also requires constant interaction with the UN and its specially created bodies in the fight against terrorism. Only if the SCO's activities are adequate to the nature of modern terrorism, and the member states unite in developing a unified policy in the fight against terrorism based on the principles of international law, the Charter and generally recognized UN norms, it is possible to achieve effective and significant results in this direction.

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