Advancements in Counterterrorism: The UAE’s Commitment to Security

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Over the years, The United Arab Emirates has advanced counterterrorism efforts, particularly in the field of countering terrorist financing. U.S. and UAE security agencies continued to complete a new information-sharing memorandum of cooperation to push travel safer. The UAE aims to be a leader in countering violent extremist reports on a global level, helping CVE, and participating in and hosting international media to promote tolerance and coexistence. The government persisted in applying restrictive laws as part of its security and counterterrorism measures. The UAE also continued valuable aid for counterterrorism efforts in Yemen against AQAP and ISIS Yemen, including assistance to local forces in CT operations.

The State Security Directorate (SSD) in Abu Dhabi and the Dubai State Security (DSS) remained mainly responsible for CT law enforcement efforts. Local, emirate-level police forces, especially Abu Dhabi and Dubai Police, were the first responders in such matters and often provided technical service to SSD and DSS. The UAE security apparatus established capability in investigations, crisis comeback, and border security, and forces were prepared and equipped to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents.

Furthermore, the UAE worked closely with the US through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to enhance its border security posture. Data sharing between Abu Dhabi Police’s Criminal Investigations Division and DHS Investigations helped counter transnational criminal organizations and terrorist groups. The US and the UAE, to prioritize and support long-term response for proactively noticing, deterring, and preventing terrorism, transnational crime, and other dangers to border security, signed an information-sharing memorandum of partnership that demonstrates a shared responsibility to facilitate lawful international travel.

In April 2019, FATF published its Mutual Evaluation Report of the UAE. The report determined that the UAE’s AML/CFT framework requires significant improvements to indicate that the system cannot be utilized for money laundering, terrorist financing, or the financing of expansion of weapons of mass destruction. The information noted, however, that UAE authorities do investigate and charge terrorist financing offenses and activities to a large extent. The UAE must show improvement in specifically defined spots to avoid being placed under increased monitoring by FATF.

The UAE took measures to strengthen its domestic AML/CFT regime. In August 2020, the government created a ministerial body to watch the National Strategy to Combat Money Laundering and Counterterrorism. The UAE also issued Cabinet Decision No. 58/2020, requiring all new and existing UAE firms to maintain a “Real Beneficial Owners” register and transmit the information to the appropriate regulatory authority. In September, the Central Bank (CBUAE) reported the introduction of a compulsory registration framework for informal value transfer systems understood as hawaladars. UAE also rolled out a new case managing software named “Fawri Tick” to investigate and implement proliferation and terrorism financing violations.

In October, CBUAE charged administrative sanctions on two exchange houses, plentizing them for having “weak anti-money laundering and fighting [of] financing of terrorism compliance frameworks.” In November, CBUAE administered the “Stored Value Facilities Regulation,” which sets out AML/CFT procedures and demands licensees to exercise due diligence when onboarding customers and continue to report suspicious transactions.

According to official media outlets, in November, the Ministry of Justice stopped the licenses of 200 law firms for one month for non-compliance with AML/CFT requirements. In reaction, 193 of the 200 law firms repaired their compliance shortcomings, which lifted the imposed suspensions.  Seven of the 200 firms failed to execute the necessary curative actions, resulting in a $27,250 fine from the ministry.

Moreover, the UAE government continues to lead in global measures to counter terrorist radicalization and recruitment. Further, The UAE hosts the Sawab Center, a bilateral partnership with the US to strengthen credible voices to counter terrorist messaging online. It supports Hedayah, the International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism. Prominent UAE officials, religious heads, and think tanks continued to publicly denounce and highlight the dangers of what they regarded as terrorist chronologies, most notably that of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the UAE designated as a terrorist group.

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