Human rights-based approach key to effectively countering phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters

An expert meeting organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in Warsaw focused on the human rights-compliant implementation of legislation and policies to counter the foreign terrorist fighter phenomenon. The ICJ partnered in the event.

The two-day meeting (25-26 April) brought together 21 participants (11 men and 10 women) – including experts from international and national organizations, civil society, academia and OSCE staff – to reflect on experiences and human rights challenges in responses aimed at countering the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters.

“Human rights compliance is essential both for the short and the long-term effectiveness of any measure to address the phenomenon,” said Omer Fisher, Head of the ODIHR Human Rights Department. “Jeopardizing human rights protection in the course of responding to the threat will not solve, but rather exacerbate the problem, because human rights violations provide fertile ground in which terrorism can thrive.”

Over the past few years, OSCE participating States have taken a wide range of administrative and criminal law measures to prevent the movement of terrorists or terrorist groups, to suppress the provision of support for them, and to counter the incitement and recruitment of foreign terrorist fighters.

“Broadly defined criminal offences and administrative measures based on vague definitions – including of terrorism and related offences – are open to abusive, arbitrary or discriminatory application,” said Róisín Pillay, Director of the Europe Programme of the ICJ.

“Legislation criminalizing acts such as travel for the purpose of terrorism must, therefore, be narrowly defined, clear and accessible, and provide for appropriate legal and procedural safeguards,” she added.

The expert meeting will inform a policy guidance document, which ODIHR will prepare in the coming months to assist OSCE participating States in the human rights-compliant and gender sensitive implementation of legislation and policies to address the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters.

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