On the occasion of the third anniversary of the terrorist attacks in Brussels, as part of the European project MINDb4ACT, a two days study visit brought together European and US experts in the field of combating radicalization and prevention of violent extremism in Belgium.
The conference "Fighting terrorism three years after the attacks in Brussels", organized on 20th March in the capital of the European Parliament, has seen the confrontation of many government officials, diplomatic corps, police and intelligence services, prison officials, local authorities and representatives of civil society. Speakers include the President Emeritus of the European Council and the President of the European Policy Center, Herman Van Rompuy, the European Commissioner for Immigration, Internal Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, the Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens and the First Counselor of the European Union Counterterrorism Coordinator Christiane Höhn. Among the priorities of the European agenda emerged from the conference, prevention activities in prisons, alongside new investigative models and e-evidences. Karl Heeren (Belgian Police and Europol) underlined the importance of public-private cooperation in the cyber space and the urgency to better integrate preventive, investigative and intelligence capabilities, tracing the evolution of European agencies in this sector.
The proposal by Jessika Soors on new models of social mediation for the recovery of foreign fighters and radicals and the results of the work carried out by the municipality of Vilvoorde, Belgium, also aroused great interest, until recently one of the major hotspots of foreign fighters to Syria.
The large and dynamic participation of experts from overseas animated theclosed doors round table which, the day after the conference, allowed the sharing of knowledge and perspectives to counter violent extremism between the two sides of the Atlantic.
The opportunity to establish an intercontinental dialogue between experts for the exchange of good practices and strategies was highlighted by a representative of the Italian Ministry of Justice.
On this occasion it was presented to American and European experts, including Omar Ramadan, president of the RAN Network, Matthias Biesemans, Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis (OCAD / OCAM) and Gregory Hughes, FBI Agent Legal Attaché at the US Embassy in Brussels, the Experimental Lab of Penitentiary Forensics (ELPeF), recently established at the Triveneto Office by the Penitentiary Police Corps. Great interest, also among the representatives of the Commission and the FBI, was aroused by the debate that traced the future evolution of ELPeF towards data integration, artificial intelligence solutions (AI) for the prioritization of analyzes in a preventive and investigative function, the new models of integrated mobile forensics, as well as the tools of enhanced reality, for the forensic reconstruction of crime scenes, the analysis of multiple scenarios to assist strategic decisions in critical events and, not least, exercise models in the context of virtual reality.
"It is a new way of interpreting the European mantra of public-private cooperation through the application of innovative technological solutions halfway between prevention and investigations, with an eye to the models of intelligence-led police approach" - noted Sergio Bianchi, expert of the Agenfor International Foundation, among the organizers of the event.
The swedish Mikael Falkoven highlighted the importance of the Italian experimental model declined in Padua, on the line of advanced projects in the American states of Tennessee and Indiana, where the MSAB company has digitized the forensic penitentiary system.
In the last panel, moderated by Fernando Reinares, the leading Spanish counterterrorism expert, and attended by David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee (New York) and Christiane Höhn, Principal Adviser to the EU Counter-terrorism Coordinator, were examined the new forms of radicalization, from the Salafi phenomenon to the anarchist and right wing and how these tend to create dynamic links of threat, connecting to the most vulnerable sections of the population, through various forms of social mobilization, particularly relevant in prison and in penitentiary riots.
In this regard it is legitimate to think that the circumstance that Italy has a real police force dedicated to prisons can allow us to consider our country in some ways favored in the fight against such invasive and dangerous crime.