The Organization of American States is the exclusive regional forum for political dialogue, policy analysis, and decision-making in matters in the Western Hemisphere. The OAS brings together leaders from nations across the Americas to discourse on hemispheric issues and opportunities. Different forms of terrorist menaces have existed across the Membership of the Organization of American States for decades. It was established on 30 April 1948 in Bogota.
Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the Foreign Ministers of the OAS passed the Resolution on Supporting Hemispheric Cooperation to Control, Combat, and Eliminate Terrorism. This included a “call upon all member states and the entire international community to take effective measures to deny terrorist groups the ability to operate within their territories”. A central part of this objective is strengthening regional and global counter-terrorism cooperation whilst respecting the rule of law, human rights and democratic matters. This resolution was followed immediately by another adopted by the Foreign Ministers, namely, Terrorist Threat to the Americas. It declared that “these terrorist attacks against the United States of America are attacks against all American states”, gathering the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance.
The OAS has one regional anti-terrorism treaty, the Inter-American Convention against Terrorism. It was negotiated and adopted following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. It was adopted on 3 June 2002 and enacted on 6 July 2003. As of 26 June 2018, 24 out of 35 Member States have approved the Convention. Key features of the Convention include seeking to support regional cooperation in the fight against terrorism, thereby improving hemispheric security, and urging Member States to sign and confirm the relevant United Nations instruments against terrorism.
Further, It denies haven to supposed terrorists, both as refugees and asylum-seekers; increases collaboration in border control and law enforcement; provides technical and legal contributions; and exchanges experience and training. The OAS occasionally adopts non-binding resolutions on security-related issues, including terrorism and counter-terrorism, such as the Declaration of San Salvador on Citizen Security in the Americas. It was adopted at the 41st OAS General Assembly on 7 June 2011.
In 1999, the OAS established the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE) according to the resolution on Hemispheric Cooperation to Contain, Combat, and Eliminate Terrorism. Its essential purposes are to promote and develop cooperation among Member States to prevent, combat and eliminate terrorism under the regulations of the OAS Charter and the Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism while acknowledging full respect for the sovereignty of States, the rule of law, and international law.
CICTE played a pivotal role in preparing the 2002 Inter-American Convention against Terrorism. It comprises representatives from across its Membership and holds one standard session each year as a forum for discussion and decision-making on counter-terrorism issues, efforts, and cooperation. Its role is more conducive than substantive, such as providing technical help and capacity-building for Member States.
In addition to the American Convention, the inter-American system has embraced many other legally binding treaties relevant to regional and broader international counter-terrorism-related challenges, for example, migration and asylum issues where there is a concern that potential terrorists may infiltrate such groups.
For instance, the Preamble to the Mexico Declaration and Plan of Action to Strengthen the International Protection of Refugees in Latin America. It was adopted in Mexico City on 16 November 2004. It was adopted to observe the twentieth anniversary of the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees, “[a]ffirm[s] that national security policies and the fight against terrorism should be framed within respect for domestic law and international instruments for the protection of refugees and of human rights in general”.
In 2014, the OAS passed a Resolution on the Prevention and Reduction of Statelessness and the Protection of Stateless Persons in the Americas. The Resolution urges States parties to accept their international obligations regarding statelessness, adopting or amending whatever domestic law is necessary to safeguard stateless people, including ensuring that adequate safeguards exist to prevent and decrease new cases of statelessness and eliminate those already existing. Such instruments are paramount in the counter-terrorism context when States are thinking about how best to react to the phenomenon of returning Foreign Terrorist Fighters who pose a danger to their national security.