Counter-terrorism legislation in Egypt, Tunisia and Pakistan

The ICJ today delivered an oral statement on counter-terrorism legislation in these countries, in an interactive dialogue at the UN Human Rights Council with the  the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.

The text of the statement follows:



10 March 2016

Mr President,

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) welcomes the attention given by Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson, to defective counter-terrorism legislation that facilitates violations of human rights, as reflected for example by communications on Egypt, Tunisia and Pakistan in the Communications Report of Special Procedures (A/HRC/31/79).

Numerous counter terrorism laws promulgated or applied in these and other countries include overly broad or imprecise definitions of terrorism-related offences. These extend the laws’ reach beyond acts of a truly terrorist character. Such laws can be and are abused or misapplied to criminalize the legitimate and peaceful exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms.

Further, these laws provide sweeping immunities that contribute to pervasive impunity for unlawful killings by security forces.

These laws also facilitate violations of the right to liberty and fair trial rights and insufficiently safeguard against abuses in detention. In Tunisia a person can be held in police custody without being brought before a judge for up to 15 days. In Pakistan, suspects can be held in preventive detention without charge, and without being brought before a judge, for up to 90 days.

Egypt and Pakistan continue to use military courts to conduct unfair trials of civilians in terrorism cases, contrary to international standards. At least eight civilians sentenced to death in secretive trials by military courts in Pakistan have been hanged since January 2015. “Expedited” procedures in terrorism circuit courts in the Egyptian civilian system also give rise to fair trial concerns.

The ICJ invites the Special Rapporteur to comment on measures or mechanisms that states, inter-governmental organisations, and civil society can take to help ensure that states such as Tunisia, Egypt and Pakistan repeal or amend counter-terrorism legislation to bring it into line with their international human rights obligations and commitments.

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