UN: human rights must be protected when fighting terrorism

UN: human rights must be protected when fighting terrorism

[JURIST] Two UN human rights experts said Thursday that human rights and freedoms should not be sacrificed in the fight against terrorism solely because abridging those rights is politically convenient. Ben Emmerson, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism and Heiner Bielefeldt [official profiles], Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, both acknowledged that preserving human rights while countering terrorism is essential to defeating terrorism. UN member states have recognized this theory with Security Council resolution 1963 [text], which says that states cannot solely rely on military force, law enforcement measures, and intelligence operations, and must preserve human rights to counter terrorism. According to the experts, terrorism is fostered by factors such as [UN report] armed conflict, government corruption or incompetence, extreme poverty, environmental decay, political, economic, cultural and social discrimination, along with prolonged periods of collapsed state or disenfranchised populations. “By actively promoting and protecting human rights, States contribute to preventing terrorism in an effort to address its root causes and risk factors,” the experts said, also noting that, “respect for the rule of law, and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms are essential to offer a viable alternative to those who could otherwise be susceptible to terrorist recruitment and to radicalization.” The experts said that states should empathize with terrorism victims to provide a sustainable alternative to the violence terrorism offers.

This report is in response to terrorist groups such as the Islamic State (IS) [JURIST backgrounder], which has caused increasing international alarm over its human rights abuses [JURIST report] since its insurgence into Syria and Iraq in 2013. Earlier this month IS asserted control over the refugee camp in Yarmouk. Last month the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] reported that the actions of IS in Iraq may amount to genocide [JURIST report], crimes against humanity and war crimes. Also in March the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the OHCHR jointly released [JURIST report] a report detailing violations against Iraqi civilians under the spread of IS. International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated in November that the her office was contemplating bringing war crimes charges against IS jihadist fighters, but said last week that her office lacks jurisdiction [JURIST report] to open a formal investigation into the group. UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported in December that the IS executed [JURIST report] 1,878 people in Syria between June and December 2014. The UK has enacted an anti-terror law [JURIST report] to stop a citizen’s re-entry into the country when he or she is suspected of aiding terrorist groups and requiring internet providers to maintain communication data of UK citizens to allow the police to find individuals who may be using certain devices. Civil rights groups have criticized the re-entry provision, stating that it could violate international law.