Search Results for: counter terrorism

Special Rapporteur Highlights Freedom of Speech in Counterterrorism Measures

Press conference : Mr. Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and Mr. Ben Emmerson, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism.

Ben Emmerson speaking at the UN
Credit: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

Before the United Nations Human Rights Council on March 15, 2016, the UN Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of human rights while countering terrorism, Ben Emmerson, presented his report focused on violent extremism and the human rights implications of measures taken to eradicate it. See Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, UN Doc. A/HRC/31/65, 22 February 2016. The report comes partly in response to the January 2016 release of the UN Secretary-General’s Plan of Action of Preventing Violent Extremism, which outlined a comprehensive strategy encompassing both security-based counter-terrorism initiatives and those aimed at addressing the underlying conditions which prompt individuals to turn to extremism. [UN Press Release: Plan of Action]

The Special Rapporteur, through the report, addresses a shift in the international community’s focus away from a strict security-based approach to counterterrorism and toward an approach aimed at addressing the conditions which give rise to extremism, a term that is often broadly defined and can be manipulated to target specific groups and suppress freedom of speech. Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, paras. 9, 21, 39. Therefore, the Special Rapporteur calls for a more precise definition of extremism to avoid confusing the term, which may encompass a range of activities beyond terrorism, with other terminology, such as terrorist acts. See id. at paras. 13, 24. Reflecting the contents of the report, in recent statements, the Special Rapporteur has focused on the right to freedom of expression, asserting that measures to counter terrorism and extremism must not suppress the peaceful expression of views deemed “extreme” and must be implemented in compliance with international human rights obligations. [OHCHR Press Release: Counterterrorism] Additionally, the report examines the impact of national measures countering violent extremism on the right to freedom of movement and nondiscrimination in addition to the impact on freedom of expression. Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, paras. 41-46. Read more

ACHPR Publishes Guidelines on Human Rights while Countering Terrorism

ACHPR Principles and GuidelinesThe African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has released new principles intended to guide its Member States in implementing counter-terrorism and security measures that comply with regional and international human rights norms. As African States increasingly face real and practical challenges posed by terrorism, the Principles and Guidelines on Human and Peoples’ Rights while Countering Terrorism in Africa (Principles and Guidelines) aim to explicitly define governments’ human rights obligations in this context and encourage States respond to security threats in ways that: prioritize victims’ needs, address the root causes of extremism, recognize the need to regulate modern developments including the use of private contractors and rendition, and include a commitment to implementing their human rights obligations. [ACHPR Press Release] Although the ACHPR adopted the Principles and Guidelines in May 2015, they were officially released on January 29, 2016. Read more

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism


The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism is one of the thematic special procedures overseen by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Special Rapporteur assists States in countering terrorism by making recommendations on ways to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms while engaging in counter-terrorism efforts; conducts country visits in order to collect information about the status of human rights and receives information about alleged violations; identifies, exchanges, and promotes best practices on measures to counter terrorism while respecting human rights; and, engages in dialogue with governments and other relevant actors, such as the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the UN Security Council, about possible areas for cooperation.

The Special Rapporteur must apply a gender perspective throughout the work of his or her mandate.


The mandate of the Special Rapporteur lasts for a period of three years. The UN Commission on Human Rights established the Special Rapporteurship in 2005 with Resolution 2005/80. The Human Rights Council extended the mandate in 2010 with Resolution 15/15 and in 2013 with Resolution 22/8. The mandate is filled by one highly qualified individual.

In fulfilling the mandate, the Special Rapporteur undertakes country visits, engages in dialogue with relevant stakeholders, and submits activity reports to the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council.

Country Visits

One important function of the Special Rapporteur is to conduct country visits, which it does on the basis of an invitation from the country concerned. Country visits provide the Special Rapporteur an opportunity to receive information from the government of the country concerned, as well as from civil society groups, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, individuals, and other relevant actors. These fact-finding efforts enable the Special Rapporteur to gain a firsthand understanding of the human rights situation under counter-terrorism efforts.

The Special Rapporteur undertakes one to two visits per year, to States that have extended an invitation. View the list of previous country visits and the Special Rapporteur’s subsequent reports here.

More than 100 countries have extended standing invitations to country visits by all thematic special procedures. View the list of countries that have extended standing invitations here.

Dialogue with Governments, Civil Society, and Other Actors 

The Special Rapporteur engages in regular dialogue with governments, UN bodies, specialized agencies and programmes, nongovernmental organizations, and other relevant actors about possible areas of cooperation in countering terrorism while protecting human rights. In particular, the Special Rapporteur discusses counter-terrorism issues with the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the Security Council, the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, the Terrorism Prevention Branch of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. While engaging in this dialogue, the Special Rapporteur endeavors to avoid duplicating efforts undertaken by other actors.

Reports to the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council

The Special Rapporteur reports annually to the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly on all of its activities relating to its mandate. These reports are available on the Special Rapporteur’s Annual Reports webpage.


The Special Rapporteur may be contacted by email at:

In Nada v. Switzerland, ECHR Finds Swiss Implementation of UN Counter-Terror Sanctions Violated Rights to Respect for Private and Family Life, Effective Remedy

Yesterday, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights issued its judgment in Nada v. Switzerland [GC], no. 10593/08, a case concerning a Swiss entry and transit ban imposed on Mr. Youssef Moustafa Nada, an Italian and Egyptian citizen,  by virtue of his inclusion in 2001 on a list of individuals and entities purportedly associated with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda which had been developed by a UN Security Council committee pursuant to Resolutions 1267 (1999), 1333 (2000), and 1390 (2002) and adopted domestically via the Swiss “Taliban Ordinance.”  Mr. Nada lived in an Italian enclave, Campione d’Italia, which is surrounded by Swiss territory, and was therefore effectively prevented from leaving his community. The Swiss Federal Court found the restriction to be “tantamount to house arrest.” Mr. Nada’s alleged connections to terrorism were not substantiated in investigations by Italian and Swiss authorities; in 2009, the United States eventually moved for his removal from the UN list. Read more

UK Reviews Anti-Terrorism Measures; Recommends Less Restrictive Version of Control Orders

The United Kingdom’s Home Office has published its Review of Counter-Terrorism and Security Powers: Review Findings and Recommendations, an analysis of British counter-terrorism measures – including pre-charge detention, control orders, deportation of foreign nations, stop and search, and surveillance – in light of the country’s Human Rights Act and obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. [UK Human Rights Blog]

Aspects of the British anti-terror regime have come under judicial scrutiny on several occasions.  See, e.g.Secretary of State for the Home Department v AF & Anor, decided by the UK House of Lords on June 10, 2009, and requiring that an individual subject to a control order be given sufficient information about the evidence supporting the order to be able to give “effective instructions” to his or her special advocate, as mandated by the European Court of Human Rights’ Grand Chamber decision in A and Others v. United Kingdom, App. No. 3455/05 (Feb. 19, 2009).  The decision in AF led the England and Wales Court of Appeal to later hold, in AN v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2010] EWCA Civ 869 (28 July 2010), that control orders which the government had revoked in order to avoid revealing their evidentiary basis should quashed as invalid ab initio, giving way to the possibility of compensatory damages for the former controlees.

The Home Office’s Review finds that some current counter-terrorism measures are “neither proportionate nor necessary”, in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights, and recommends: that the standard maximum pre-charge detention be reduced from 28 to 14 days; stricter control over and definition of police authority to carry out indiscriminate (not based on individualized suspicion) searches  within designated geographic and temporal constraints; clearer guidance on when law enforcement can prevent people from taking photographs; that judicial approval be required for local authorities’ use of surveillance techniques; clarification of the legal bases for obtaining communications data; that the definition of terrorism not be broadened in an attempt to include groups that incite hatred or violence; ramped up deportation efforts; and, “[t]he end of control orders and their replacement with a less intrusive and more focused regime”.  Review of Counter-Terrorism and Security Powers: Review Findings and Recommendations, p. 5-6, 32.  The report’s recommendations will only be put into practice if the (soon-to-be-proposed) legislation is approved by Parliament. British rights groups, such as Liberty, have criticized the proposed reforms as insubstantial, arguing that the new version of control orders will still permit significant restriction of the rights of individuals not charged with any crime. [Independent]

News Clips- June 30, 2017

United Nations General Assembly High-level Action Event on Education
Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Civil Society

  • On Tuesday, Amnesty International joined a boycott protesting the mandatory reporting rules for foreign-funded groups recently put into force in Hungary. [Washington Post]
  • On Monday, Mexican reporter Salvador Adame was found dead in Mexico; seven journalists have been murdered in the country this year. [Guardian]
  • Over the weekend, police forces in Istanbul, Turkey detained 44 people attending LGBT marches that were banned by the governor of Istanbul. [Washington Post]

Violence & Humanitarian Crises

  • On Tuesday, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia fully disarmed, ending a half-century long armed struggle that has killed more than 220,000 people. [Washington Post]
  • On Tuesday, the United States government issued a warning to the Syrian regime that there would be a “heavy price” for any use of chemical weapons. [Guardian]
  • On Friday, 40 people were killed, and 100 wounded, during four bomb and gun attacks in three cities in Pakistan claimed by multiple extremist groups. [Washington Post]

Activities of Supranational Bodies

Migrants, Asylum Seekers, & Refugees


  • On Wednesday, the government of Pakistan issued its first passport with a transgender category. [Reuters]
  • On Tuesday, several corporations in Europe reported massive cyberattacks via ransomware viruses. [Al Jazeera]
  • On Monday, the United States Supreme Court lifted the block on the implementation of President Trump’s ban on travel from six countries but only for individuals who lack a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” [Guardian]
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UNODC Publishes First Handbook on Management of Violent Extremist Prisoners

United Nations meeting on preventing violent extremism
Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) launched a Handbook on the Management of Violent Extremist Prisoners and the Prevention of Radicalization to Violence in Prisons on January 16 aimed at strengthening prison management of violent extremist prisoners while upholding prisoners’ human rights. [UN News Centre] The handbook, one in a series of UNODC resources meant to help States implement the rule of law and reform criminal justice systems, makes recommendations to ensure adherence to fundamental human rights, international standards, and good practices in the management of violent extremist prisoners. States are increasingly considering holistic methods to address violent extremism, the handbook notes, which include persuading individuals to disengage with violence and reintegrate into society; prisons, UNDOC suggests, have an important role in implementing that approach. See Handbook on the Management of Violent Extremist Prisoners and the Prevention of Radicalization to Violence in Prisons, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, October 2016, at 1, 4-5. Using existing international standards, and in particular the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules), the handbook provides guidelines on prison staff recruitment and training; risk management; prevention of radicalization in prison; social reintegration; post-release support; and fair, humane, and non-discriminatory treatment of prisoners. See id. at 1-2, 7. The handbook is the first UN guidance tool to address radicalization to violence and violent extremism in prison settings. Read more

Human Rights Experts Call for Prosecution, Reparations in Wake of U.S. Torture Report

The U.S. appears before the Committee Against Torture
The U.S. appears before the Committee Against Torture

The U.S. appears before the Committee Against Torture
Credit: UN Treaty Body Webcast

On Tuesday, December 9, the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (Intelligence Committee) published a report detailing the “abuses and countless mistakes” of the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) detention and interrogation program in the years after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. See Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program: Forward 2 (Intelligence Committee Report) (approved Dec. 13, 2012) (Declassification Revisions Dec. 3, 2014).

The release of the report was welcomed by human rights experts at the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, but also prompted calls for the U.S. to prosecute and punish those responsible for the documented acts of torture, enforced disappearance, and illegal detention. Read more

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