Mission Member Profile: Counter-Terrorism Strategic Adviser, Aki Harju

Aki Harju is Finnish citizen and works in the Law Enforcement Unit of EUBAM Libya. He joined the mission in 2021. Previously he worked at Finnish Police and at INTERPOL General Secretariat in Lyon, France. He has also served in three military peace keeping operations.

1. Why did you apply to the Mission?

During my time at Interpol I was leading counter terrorism projects and working with Libya. I found it very interesting and I wanted to gain more experience. I am an expert on counter-terrorism, working for Finnish police for more than 20 years. I have also worked combatting organized crime, focusing on people smuggling and human trafficking, which are all global phenomena. It was one of the reasons why I wanted to work with and in Libya to understand better the culture as well as the people.

2. What is your role within the Mission?

As a Counter-Terrorism Strategic Adviser I have been able to establish close contacts with my counterpart. Contacts are very important for the sustainable progress and development. We work in the middle of a challenging situation and cannot expect concrete results immediately. Steady and continuous efforts is the base for a foundation on sustainable development. I have used my previous experience to bring Libyan counter-terrorism efforts closer together to the global counter-terrorism efforts. We are working closely with Interpol. Interpol is a unique institution when it comes to global law enforcement cooperation, as Interpol has 195 member countries, including Libya.

3. Who do you work closely with?

My Libyan counterpart is Major General Saleh, the Director of the Libyan Counter Terrorism Centre, and he reports directly to the Presidential Council and the Prime Minister. The cooperation is on a strategic level, also with Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Justice and of course with the EUBAM members within the mission.

4. What do you enjoy most about your job?

I would say the international environment, meeting people with different backgrounds and cultures. And to understand better different aspects and opinions. Workwise I am happy to see that I can use my professional experience. After two years of deployment, it is time to go home as I am a father of two young children.

5. How do you like living in Libya and especially in Palm City?

I was fine with the environment. Palm City is a closed compound with limited options for social networking. There are limited options for everybody which could be easily a stress factor. In my case I enjoyed the time to read a lot.

6. What do you like to do in your leisure time?

Beside reading I like to play soccer with other international representatives. I went to play soccer twice or three times a week.

7. How would you describe your Libyan colleagues?

I have met some great characters, both ladies and gentlemen. There is a lot of potentials especially among the young people.

8. How would you describe the workshop participants?

This is not only about training. It enables closer cooperation between different agencies in Libya. I have seen how they interact with the INTERPOL trainers and also discussing together which is a good sign.

9. Which topics have your workshops and what is your role in it?

Crucial elements are intelligence and analyses, linked with international police cooperation. I have worked within these fields during the last 15 years. My tasks have been focusing on countering terrorism and combatting organized crime of people smuggling and human trafficking. At Interpol CT Intelligence and analysis training, I am the course director, supporting Interpol team and trainees as well as commenting on specific topics. The trainers are my previous colleagues from Interpol and I know them very well.

10. What is your dream holiday destination?

The company is more important than the destination, places, where I could go with my children.

11. What is one of your favorite books?

“The Egyptian”, by Mika Waltari. It combines history with fiction. It is about an Egyptian, his life and travels during the period of the Pharaoh.

12. From your previous experience, what advice would you give your colleagues and friends about mission life?

Adaption is important, especially when living in a limited environment. Be active and meet people and search for common grounds. Then you go on leave and charge your batteries again. Enjoy something different which you cannot experience at home.