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UN rapporteur warns rights council on US 'war on terror' policies

[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism Martin Scheinin [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday cited the case of Canadian citizen and former US detainee Maher Arar [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] in presenting a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] critical of international counterterrorism practices to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] in Geneva. Scheinin flagged Arar's deportation from the US
as an example of how intelligence sharing without "adequate safeguards" can lead to human rights violations. The report was broadly critical of US rendition [JURIST news archive] policies and also censured the United Kingdom [Independent report], Australia and other countries for providing assistance to the US. Speaking to reporters after presenting the report, Scheinin said that UN human rights investigators will be looking into possible human rights violations committed by the US [Reuters report] during the "war on terror" and that the investigation will not be relaxed because of a change in administrations. On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that the UK will not conduct an official judicial inquiry [AP report] into whether British intelligence officials ever acted illegally in assisting the US, but did note that police could initiate such investigations.

Scheinin has been a vocal proponent of greater limits on the power of intelligence agencies to act with limited safeguards under the justification of national security. In October, he urged the UN to restructure or eliminate [JURIST report] the existing terrorist "blacklisting" system. In June, he called on the US to set a concrete deadline [JURIST report] for closure of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, a task accomplished [JURIST report] in January by President Barack Obama. In May, he urged Spain to reform its legal standards [JURIST report] for the treatment of suspected terrorists.

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