UN: monitor needed to protect rights in counter-terrorism

As the international community is poised to establish a special rapporteur of the United Nations on protecting human rights in counter-terrorism efforts, a small number of states – led by China, Russia and United States – are colluding to block the establishment of an effective mandate.

In addition to these three permanent Security Council members, Australia, India and Pakistan have sought to undermine the initiative currently under consideration by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights meeting in Geneva.

Nearly four years after the September 11, 2001 tragedy and the Security Council mandate for robust international action to combat terrorism, and despite more than three years of discussion in the U.N. human rights system, China has argued that it is “too early” for establishing such a special rapporteur.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, most Commission member states, national human rights institutions, and a large number of NGOs have endorsed the call for a United Nations investigator. The special rapporteur would monitor counter-terrorism laws and practices for their compatibility with human rights, act to prevent human rights violations arising from counter-terrorism measures and provide technical assistance to states.

The countries blocking the mechanism have demanded a number of unacceptable amendments designed to kill or hollow-out the mandate.

Mexico and many other states proposed the special rapporteur following a clear conclusion by Robert Goldman, the Commission’s Independent Expert on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, that there is a pressing need for monitoring under a single mandate that has a comprehensive overview of the relationship between human rights and counter-terrorism measures.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues and the International Service for Human Rights share the assessment of the Independent Expert that “a broad range of human rights have come under increasing pressure or are being violated by States in the context of … counter-terrorism initiatives.”

The organizations called on the Commission to act now to address meaningfully one of the greatest human rights challenges presently faced by the international community.

For further information, contact: Ian Seiderman (ICJ) + 41 79 812 51 22, Loubna Freih (HRW) + 41 79 202 32 85, Antoine Madelin (FIDH) + 33 668 22 65 72, Peter Splinter (AI) + 41 79 532 83 02, Chris Sidoti (ISHR) + 41 79 518 20 60.

special rapporteur-terrorism-news-2005 (full text, PDF)

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