In this week’s Beat, your wrap-up of strategic policing and law enforcement news, we look at inquiries into the Sydney Siege as well as into the death of a former KBG agent, the impact of IS on international dialogue, and reactions to France’s latest initiative to help identify the early stages of radicalisation.
Sydney siege coronial inquest
The first hearing of the coronial inquest into the Sydney siege that began last week outlined the timeline of events and confirmed that Katrina Dawson died after being hit by fragments of police bullets. With the NSW Police inquiry, the AFP inquiry and the joint Commonwealth–NSW review (which was received by Prime Minister Abbott last Thursday) in addition to the coronial inquest, critics have questioned what these reviews can actually provide. The coronial inquest is set to continue at a date to be confirmed.
Still in Sydney, the threat of IS was at the top of the agenda at this week’s Australia–United Kingdom Ministerial defence and security talks. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond chaired the talks, but didn’t provide any details of their discussions. It’ll be interesting to see how Australia and the United Kingdom collaborate on this mutually-concerning issue, and what they take to forthcoming talks on countering violent extremism hosted by President Obama in Washington on 18 February.
New figures on IS foreign fighters
Sticking with IS, the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College in London released updated figures on the number of foreign fighters currently in Syria and Iraq. These estimates indicate that over 20,000 foreigners have joined Sunni militant forces in both countries, with nearly a fifth of those being western European nationals or residents.
Also in London, the inquiry into the death of former Russian spy-turned-MI6 agent Alexander Litvinenko began last week. Former KGB agents Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun have been charged with the murder of Litvinenko, who died in 2006 after his tea was poisoned with deadly polonium-210. Pathologist Dr Nathanial Cary told the inquiry that Litvinenko’s body was so radioactive, the post-mortem was probably the most dangerous carried out in the Western world with pathologists and detectives present wearing two protective suits taped at the wrists and an ambulance on standby. However, Russia maintains its innocence in Litvinenko’s death and refuses to extradite the two suspects. The inquiry continues.
Organised crime in Australia
An interesting paper on mafia influence in Australia, written by University of Essex’s Anna Sergi last year, charts the history of the ‘ndrangheta (a mafia-type group originating in Italy) in this country and raises questions about its activities and influence. Sergi also criticises Australian law enforcement for having a blind spot towards the influence of this type of organised crime group.
Stop Djiahisme and baguettes
The French government has launched a new online initiative called Stop Djihadisme to help identity and stop suspected radicals. The campaign includes an infographic of warning signs which may be associated with those becoming radicalised such as a change in attire or sporting habits. As is sometimes the case, social media poked fun at the image guidelines, with some joking that those who stop enjoying baguettes might be targeted as potential jihadists.
— japhetweeks (@japhetweeks) January 30, 2015
The initiative does acknowledge clearly that each situation is different, and that the presence of one or more of these signs doesn’t necessarily mean a person has become radicalised. Indeed, one of the biggest challenges facing deradicalisation policymakers and community workers is that there’s no one model or pattern indicating a move to violent extremism.
The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee is due to report on the comprehensive revisions of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 on 12 February. This review has examined recommendations from the Australian Law Reform Commission and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.
Clare Murphy is an intern working within ASPI’s Strategic Policing and Law Enforcement Program. Image courtesy of Flickr user Pedro Vezini.