UN: Advisory Committee must keep human rights at the heart of its counter terrorism work

UN: Advisory Committee must keep human rights at the heart of its counter terrorism work - Civic Space


ARTICLE 19 and the International Commission of Jurists’ statement ahead of the Advisory Committee of the UN Human Rights Council.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and ARTICLE 19 welcome the opportunity to engage in this discussion of the draft report on the negative effects of terrorism on human rights.

Given that we have not been able to review the current draft report, we must reiterate our call previously stated during the 24th session to consider the broader context into which this report will be delivered.

We ask the Committee to maintain its focus on the primary objectives of preventing and addressing human rights violations resulting from counter-terrorism measures, and promoting and ensuring protection of the human rights of victims of terrorism. This has been the longstanding focus of the Human Rights Council, despite the efforts of a few states to divert its attention away from core human rights concerns.

Any report addressing the “negative effects of terrorism” should maintain this focus, consolidating the extensive work already done in this regard by successive Special Rapporteurs and other UN and regional entities, as collected in the compilation published by the ICJ in 2019.

The report must not enable the diversion of precious attention and resources to more diffuse questions of impacts of a macro-economic or similar character, in respect of which a human rights-based approach has little to add in terms of concrete recommendations or guidance to States.

The ICJ and ARTICLE 19 share and endorse the positions set out in the recent report of the Special Rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council as they relate to the effects of terrorism on the promotion and protection of human rights (UN Doc. A/HRC/46/36).

We agree with the Special Rapporteur’s observation that “reflection on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights in the terrorism and counter-terrorism arenas has been understated” (para. 32).

As the Special Rapporteur has stated, however, “there is no legal basis to view the State as primary victim of terrorism through the economic costs that may be experienced from acts of terrorism”.

Two principles, in this respect, should be reinforced: individuals and peoples are the primary rights holders under human rights law, and States have to carry out the legal obligations prescribed by international human rights law. Any confusion or suggestions otherwise may serve to undermine human rights law.

We agree with the Special Rapporteur that the lack of precise definition in terrorism and counter-terrorism and the blurring of lines between counter-terrorism and international humanitarian law will have a pernicious effect and will seriously tarnish human rights protection.

As highlighted before, we also concur that any work on effects of terrorism must be centred on the human rights of victims of terrorism, on the duty under international human rights law of all States to prevent, protect, investigate and redress any abuse to human rights.

We urge the Advisory Committee to include a clear recommendation to the Council that the exclusive focus of the Council’s work remain on violations in countering terrorism and a human-rights based approach to victims of terrorism.

We call on the Committee to recommend against the Council entering into more diffuse macroeconomic issues.

We urge you to affirm that the existing and longstanding normative and institutional framework on counter-terrorism and human rights is already sufficient to address relevant impacts of terrorism from a human rights perspective.