UN rights expert urges states not to criminalize humanitarian aid
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UN rights expert urges states not to criminalize humanitarian aid

A UN human rights expert on Wednesday highlighted the role of aid workers, urging states not to criminalize such efforts in the name of combating terrorism. 

According to the expert, because there is no “globally agreed definition of terrorism” or what constitutes support for terrorism, states have argued that acts of humanitarian aid can be construed as support for terrorism. This results in halting aid that would stop or deter human rights abuses. 

The Special Rapporteur urged the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution that would establish humanitarian protection and assistance as never being in support of terrorism. Under this resolution humanitarian aid could not be withheld or criminalized.

Such a resolution would address issues of governments singling out humanitarian workers who rescue migrants and refugees in dangerous situations and provide aid or support to those in need. These governments reportedly rely on militarization and border control to deter and combat migration across their borders, enabling them to prosecute those who offer humanitarian aid or assistance. The fear of this prosecution has “prevented crucial aid from reaching populations controlled by so-called ‘terrorist’ organisations.”  

According to the report, the attitude of governments towards aid workers, coupled with the view of humanitarian aid as support for terrorism, has led to a climate where these volunteers and workers are unable to support the victims who are among the most vulnerable populations in the world. The UN expert identified these populations as including “women and girls, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons.”

The purpose of this report is to call on the UN to ensure that humanitarian aid is not stopped on the basis of support for terrorism. And thus that the most vulnerable populations are protected and offered support.