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Press Statement of the Special Procedures on anti-terrorism

UN Experts address concerns regarding Guantanamo Bay detainees

Joint statement on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the context of anti-terrorism measures

Joint statement by the Special rapporteurs/representatives, experts and chairpersons of the working groups of the special procedures of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights

Joint statement issued on 10 December 2001 by 17 independent experts of the Commission on Human Rights on the occasion of Human Rights Day

Resolutions of the Commission on Human Rights

Commission on Human Rights resolution 2004/44 "Human Rights and Terrorism"

Commission on Human Rights Resolution: 2004/87 "Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms
while countering terrorism"

Commission on Human Rights resolution 2003/68,
“Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism”

Related documents

Study of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the extent to which the human rights special procedures and treaty monitoring bodies are able, within their existing mandates, to address the compatibility of national counter-terrorism measures with international human rights obligations

Report of the Secretary General on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism A/59/404


UN Counter-terrorism Committee

Terrorism and Human Rights

The Working group considers that deprivation of liberty for Internet users in connection with their willingness to provide, disseminate or receive information from each other through the Internet aimed at preparing or carrying out terrorist plots may be, in principle, legitimate and that the participation in such actions cannot be justified by reference to the freedom of expression of Internet users. (E/CN.4/2006/7, para. 48)

However, it is troubled about the transfer practice also known as “rendition” or “extraordinary rendition”, which is supposed to be a counter-terrorism technique, whereby individuals suspected of involvement in a terrorist-related activity are transferred by one Government to others. They are held in order to continue detention and interrogation, and to exchange information with foreign intelligence agents conducting the interrogation. (E/CN.4/2006/7, para. 54)

The Working Group is also concerned about the use of secret prisons or “black sites” as a total disregard for human rights protections. This current detention policy can only lead to further grave violations of human rights, discrediting at the same time all the fight against terrorism. The Working Group is concerned that these transfers occur outside the confines of any legal procedure, such as deportation or extradition, and do not allow access to counsel or to any judicial body to contest the transfer. The existence of these secret sites of detention where no legal control or human rights protection can be exercised facilitates avoiding the international obligations and responsibilities of the Governments who are running them. The Working Group is also concerned about the question of over-incarceration, on the basis of its findings in the countries visited over the last two years. (E/CN.4/2006/7, para. 80)

It therefore urges States to stop running secret prisons and detention facilities, and when cooperating with other States in their lawful fights against terrorism, the transfer of suspected individuals between States should always rest on a sound legal basis as arrangements on extradition, deportation, expulsion, transfer of proceedings or transfer of sentenced persons. Judicial control of the admission into or holding in all detention facilities shall be secured. (E/CN.4/2006/7, para. 83)

Opinion No. 20/2004(Colombia) (paras. 5, 9)
Opinion No. 25/2004 (Saudi Arabia) (paras. 11, 15, 16)
Opinion No. 8/2005 (Sri Lanka) (paras. 7, 9)
Opinion No. 12/2005 (Bolivia) (paras. 6, 9)
Opinion No. 19/2005 (United States of America) (para. 14)

The Working Group expresses "its concern about the frequent use of various forms of administrative detention, entailing restrictions on fundamental rights. It notes a further expansion of States’ recourse to emergency legislation diluting the right of habeas corpus or amparo and limiting the fundamental rights of persons detained in the context of the fight against terrorism. In this respect, several States enacted new anti-terror or internal security legislation, or toughened existing ones, allowing persons to be detained for an unlimited time or for very long periods, without charges being raised, without the detainees being brought before a judge, and without a remedy to challenge the legality of the detention". Report E/CN.4/2005/6 (paras. 59-65)

"On the subject of counter-terrorism, the Working Group has stressed from the outset its “concern [at] frequent attempts by Governments to use normal legislation or to have recourse to emergency or special laws and procedures to combat terrorism and thereby permit, or at least to increase, the risk of arbitrary detention”.

"On deprivation of liberty in connection with the fight against terrorism and, states of emergency generally, the Working Group finds, when it looks at State practice before and after 11 September 2001, that this practice raises in particular the questions:

- Derogations that are unlawful and not consistent with States’ obligations under international law;
- Loose definitions of terrorism in national legislation;
-Recourse to military tribunals and special courts;
- Abuse of immigration laws to circumvent judicial guarantees."(E/CN.4/2004/3 para.58)

Report E/CN.4/2004/3 (paras. 50-71)

Opinion No. 4/1997 (E/CN.4/1998/44/Add.1)

In the opinion of the Special Rapporteur, diplomatic assurances are unreliable and ineffective in the protection against torture and ill-treatment, and shall not be resorted to by States. E/CN.4/2006/6 (para. 11)

On the occasion of Human Rights Day, 10 December 2005, the Special Rapporteur expressed his appreciation to the High Commissioner for Human Rights for designating as this year’s theme “On terrorists and torturers”, and for her efforts on drawing international attention to the absolute prohibition of torture. He fully supports the statement of the High Commissioner, in which she expressed her concerns about the erosion of the prohibition of torture in the context of counter-terrorism, particularly the trend of seeking diplomatic assurances and the use of secret places of detention. The Special Rapporteur also expresses his appreciation for the statement of the Secretary-General on the occasion of Human Rights Day, in which he called upon the international community to speak out forcefully against torture in all its forms and stated, “torture can never be an instrument to fight terror, for torture is an instrument of terror”. (E/CN.4/2006/6, para. 33)

Report to the General Assembly (A/60/316, paras. 17; 29)

Legislative and other measures to combat terrorism and protect national security have reportedly been flourishing in a number of countries in response to legitimate needs to prevent terrorist acts and punish those responsible for having financed, planned, supported or committed such acts. Fears have nevertheless been expressed that some of these measures may not fully respect basic human rights and fundamental freedoms (A/57/173 para.2).

According to information received by the Special Rapporteur, the provisions of some new anti-terrorist legislation at the national level may not provide
sufficient legal safeguards as recognized by international human rights law in order to prevent human rights violations, in particular those safeguards preventing and prohibiting torture and other forms of ill-treatment (A/57/173 para.5 ).

E/CN.4/2004/56 (para. 28)

Report to the General Assembly A/59/324 (paras.14-22)

Report to the General Assembly A/58/120 (paras. 11-22)

Report A/57/173 (paras. 2-6)

  • Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers

The special report on the Situation of detainees at Guantánamo Bay which has been prepared by the four experts, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, together with the Special Rapporteurs on the right to health, on the question of torture, on freedom of religion or belief and the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is distributed as document. (E/CN.4/2006/120)

The report stressed that terrorism suspects should be detained in accordance with criminal procedure that respects the safeguards enshrined in relevant international law. Accordingly, the Government of the United of States of America should either expeditiously bring all Guantánamo Bay detainees to trial, in compliance with articles 9, paragraph 3, and 14 of ICCPR, or release them without further delay. Consideration should also be given to trying suspected terrorists before a competent international tribunal. (E/CN.4/2006/120, para. 59)

Fighting terrorism with the weapons of the law.
The status of “enemy combatant” and its effects in practice
Spread of improper administrative detention without legal safeguards (paras. 14-37 E/CN.4/2005/60)

The Special Rapporteur expressed concern over the fact that "The number of complaints of failure by Governments to respect internationally accepted judicial guarantees in the case of terrorism-related crimes is constantly on the increase." E/CN.4/2004/60 (para. 58)

Report E/CN.4/2004/60 (paras. 58-60 and 73)

Report E/CN.4/2003/65 (para. 37)

  • Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion

The Special Rapporteur again notes that many Governments use anti-terrorism and national security legislation to restrict, partially or totally, freedom of opinion and expression and the right of access to information. Abuse of powers and prerogatives granted under such laws often leads to both prolonged and short-term arbitrary detention; torture; extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; disappearances; threats and intimidation; the closure of various media enterprises; the banning of publications; bans on public gatherings; bans and prohibitions on organizations and groups that are not associated with terrorism; censorship on forms of communication; and judicial lenience for the abuses and crimes committed by police, armed forces and paramilitary groups. (E/CN.4/2005/64, para 61)

"The Special Rapporteur wishes to bring to the attention of the Commission on Human Rights his concerns arising from the recent trend among Governments to adopt, or to contemplate the adoption of, counter-terrorism and national security legislative or other measures that may infringe upon the effective exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. As highlighted above, the arguments of national security and anti-terrorism are being increasingly resorted to in many countries all over the world, with the intended or indirect effect of restricting the right to freedom of opinion and expression, in particular for media professionals, political opponents and human rights defenders. A number of Governments have prioritized national security over the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms."(E/CN.4/2003/67 para.57)

Report E/CN.4/2004/62 (paras. 49-50, 69-78, 80 and 84)

Report E/CN.4/2003/67 (54-68)

  • The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people

The Special Rapporteur expresses his concern about the fact that “in some countries, the State has sometimes confronted the social struggles, claims and protests of the indigenous organizations with the implementation of terrorist laws. The Special Rapporteur considers that when ordinary crimes are committed under the umbrella of these movements, ordinary laws are sufficient for the maintenance of law and order. He considers that the use of exceptional laws is not only counterproductive, but forms a pattern of human rights violations. The Special Rapporteur recommends, in the cases that have come to his attention, that these laws should not be used to criminalize social protest and the struggles of the indigenous peoples; they should preferably be repealed. He is pleased to see that in Chile the Mapuche leaders charged with conspiracy to commit a terrorist act, for which they had been tried in mid-2005, were acquitted. (E/CN.4/2006/78, para.44)

Use of counter-terrorism laws against indigenous organizations and their supporters to penalize protest activities and legitimate demands E/CN.4/2004/80 (paras. 44-53)

Visit to Chile E/CN.4/2004/80/Add.3

  • Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief

“The newest and most alarming aspect of the rise of parties with racist and xenophobic platforms is the insidious way in which these platforms have found their way into the political agendas of democratic parties. What is new is not the existence of these platforms as such, but their progressive co-optation by democratic parties, for electoral purposes, under the guise of defending “national identity”, combating illegal immigration or defending “national preference”, in the context of economic recession, the fight against terrorism, or the defence of national security. As a result, racist or xenophobic discourse and writing, and therefore racist or xenophobic acts, enter the mainstream.” (E/CN.4/2005/18 para.20)

In the report he submitted to the Commission at its fifty-eighth session, the Special Rapporteur expressed grave concern at the implications that the terrorist acts of 11 September 2001 might have for the human rights protection system in general and for freedom of religion or belief in particular. He also voiced his fears about a rise of Islamophobia among public opinion in the West and, conversely, of feelings of coolness and mistrust towards the West, particularly the United States, in the Arab and Muslim world. (E/CN.4/2003/66 para. 97)

Report E/CN.4/2004/63 (paras. 62, 78, 153)

Report E/CN.4/2003/66 (paras. 97-98)

  • Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants

The issue of detention has been raised by the Special Rapporteur who has highlighted the increased use of detention of non-citizens as a consequence of the heightened international security climate.

Report E/CN.4/2003/85 (paras. 25, 37)

Report A/58/275 (para. 6)

  • Special Rapporteur on the question of the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination

The terrorist act does not necessarily need to be carried out by a member of the clandestine organization. Such organizations may make use of mercenaries with sound experience in the military arts, piloting of aircraft, handling of sophisticated weapons, preparation of high explosives, etc. These relationships are not, however, organizational or ongoing. Yet those who plan terror do not always rely on fanatical devotees to the cause. This connection has been overlooked in the recent, extensive international counter-terrorism legislation. The involvement of mercenaries in the commission of terrorist acts must always be investigated. The impunity of mercenaries must not continue. E/CN.4/2004/15 (paras. 35-36)

Report E/CN.4/2002/20 (paras. 63-81)

Report E/CN.4/2001/19 (paras. 50-61)

  • Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance

The Special Rapporteur’s attention has been drawn to the racist and xenophobic treatment, in many States, of asylum-seekers, refugees and immigrants in waiting areas, particularly airports, ports and stations are on the increase. As a result of the overriding focus on the fight against terrorism, the treatment of such groups is characterized by suspicion, mistrust, fear that they may be dangerous, and cultural and religious hostility. Such sentiments result in the widespread implementation of national policies that have a tendency to restrict the economic and social rights (housing, education, health) of these communities and thus illustrate that the political primacy of security over the law brings about a decline in human rights. (E/CN.4/2006/16, para. 39)

The Special Rapporteur also noted with concern that Islam continues to be identified with terrorism, and Muslim religious observance and Muslims themselves continue to be viewed as a security problem not only in law and discriminatory judicial and administrative practice, but also through the intellectual and ideological validation of Islamophobia. (E/CN.4/2006/17, paras.2, 23)

In an international context dominated by the fight against terrorism, the situation of Arab and Muslim people throughout the world can be viewed in three ways, namely containment of Islam from a security angle, monitoring of places of worship and suspicion of Muslims. (E/CN.4/2006/17, para.18)

Particularly telling examples of the erosion of democracy and respect for human rights are recent revelations regarding the widespread practices of “rendition”, the deportation of persons covertly detained on suspicion of terrorism to countries practising terrorism, and inhuman or degrading treatment. Significantly, the media and human rights organizations concur in reporting that the victims of these practices are mainly Muslim or of Arab origin. This practice also shows that the security-based component of Islamophobia has become internationalized, insofar as the countries and political systems involved are variously secular, Christian and Muslim. This development bears out the underlying point that Islamophobia is more political and ideological than religious in nature. (E/CN.4/2006/17, paras. 19-20)

Situation of Muslim and Arab peoples in various parts of the world in the aftermath of the events of 11 September 2001. Report E/CN.4/2004/19

Report E/CN.4/2004/18 (paras. 6 and 9)

The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance recommended that the Commission, as a matter of urgency, encourage all States “to take preventive measures to guarantee the full and unfettered exercise of … religious and cultural rights, … to protect detainees from arbitrariness and prolonged imprisonment and to guarantee the protection of fundamental rights such as the rights to equality before the law, personal integrity and a fair trial” (E/CN.4/2003/23 para.57)

  • Special Rapporteur on violence against women

Country visit to Russian Federation, E/CN.4/2006/61/Add.2 (paras, 70-86)

The Special Rapporteur recommends to ensure that discrimination against women is not legitimized by the passage of anti-terrorism legislation and that when women are detained or arrested, a female police officer is present at all times. (E/CN.4/2006/61/Add.2, para. 86)

E/CN.4/2004/66 (paras. 47, 63, 71, 72)

  • Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions

Recent years have seen a growing number of civilians and persons hors de combat killed in situations of armed conflict and internal strife. One result has been a general lessening of respect for established and clearly binding international norms. This is manifested in part by the proliferation of proposals that seek to justify illegal executions. Thus, it is increasingly common to read arguments along the lines that “targeting and eliminating known terrorists is more efficient and costs fewer lives than waging conventional war”. While there are a great many empirical arguments that might be made in order to show that such strategies will be counterproductive, the point is that such proposals directly undermine the essential foundations of human rights law. Empowering Governments to identify and kill “known terrorists” places no verifiable obligation upon them to demonstrate in any way that those against whom lethal force is used are indeed terrorists, or to demonstrate that every other alternative had been exhausted. While it is portrayed as a limited “exception” to international norms, it actually creates the potential for an endless expansion of the relevant category to include any enemies of the State, social misfits, political opponents, or others. And it makes a mockery of whatever accountability mechanisms may have otherwise constrained or exposed such illegal action under either humanitarian or human rights law. E/CN.4/2005/7 (paras. 41-54)

Report E/CN.4/2004/7 (para. 29)

  • Special Rapporteur on adequate housing

Report E/CN.4/2004/48 (para. 37)

  • Special Rapporteur on the right to education

The challenge of combating terrorism and preventing violence E/CN.4/2002/60 (paras. 64-69)

  • Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders

The Special Representative notes that so-called security or counter-terrorism measures have also been used to restrict human rights activities. Human rights defenders and groups have been targeted and subjected to arbitrary actions with the introduction of exceptions to the rule of law and human rights derogations adopted through special security legislation. (E/CN.4/2006/95, para. 52)

Country visit Israel and the OPT (October 2005): E/CN.4/2006/95/Add.3 (para. 3)

...[S]ince the tragic events of 11 September 2001 t the Special Representative has begun receiving information that has led her to conclude that there is a real danger that, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, some Governments may be using the global war on terrorism as a pretext to infringe human rights and to clamp down on human rights defenders. Non-governmental organizations in various regions of the world, in particular, have expressed their concern to the Special Representative about the heightened risk to human rights defenders in the increasingly threatening climate - as they see it - since 11 September 2001. There is a danger worldwide that, under the guise of combating terrorism, some Governments may increase their efforts to stifle peaceful dissent and suppress opposition. In the current climate, those who question the legitimacy of some of the post-11 September so-called anti-terrorist measures, or simply anyone who does not socially conform - be they migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, members of religious or other minorities, or simply people living at the margins of society - may be branded as terrorists and may end up being caught in a web of repression and violence. (E/CN.4/2002/106 para 96-97)

Report E/CN.4/2005/101 (para.54)

Report E/CN.4/2004/94 (paras. 31, 52, 66 and 72)

Report E/CN.4/2003/104 (para. 24)

Report E/CN.4/2002/106 (paras. 95-107)

The Special Represenative report to the General Assembly A/58/380 "describes general trends indicating a significant increase in the use of security legislation, including in counter-terrorism policies and actions. In the light of the rights provided for in the Declaration on human rights defenders, the report then describes how security legislation has been used to limit the possibilities for defenders to conduct their human rights work and how such legislation has sometimes been used directly against defenders themselves. The Special Representative draws attention to, among other things, violations of defenders’ rights to freedom of association, freedom of expression and access to information, and gives examples of the arbitrary arrest and detention, prosecution, conviction and sentencing of defenders, all under security legislation provisions. The Special Representative notes that these restrictions on defenders have been justified as measures to improve security and support counterterrorism, while in many cases the actual objective has clearly been to conceal human rights abuses that defenders would otherwise have investigated and revealed, or to punish defenders for their human rights work and to discourage others from continuing it." (A/58/380, summary)

  • Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

The Working Group again stresses its grave concern that anti-terrorist activities are being used by an increasing number of States as an excuse for not respecting the obligations of the Declaration. Credible reports point to the repression of opposition groups in many States in the name of a “war on terror”. In addition “extraordinary rendition” has been used to transport terrorist suspects to other States for aggressive interrogation. Information continues to reach the Working Group on the existence of secret detention centres where terrorist suspects are held in complete isolation from the outside world. In all three situations, people disappear. As is well documented, disappearance is often a precursor to torture and even to extrajudicial execution. (E/CN.4/2006/56, para. 22)

The Working Group expresses its concern over reported case s of disappearances linked to the “war on terror”. The Working Group has noted a strong trend since 2001 whereby many States explain disappearances with reference to “terrorists”. In some countries, authorities use the need to combat terror as a justification for repression against opposition groups. This sometimes results in disappearances. In addition, the reported use of “extraordinary rendition” - the sending of detainees to other countries for aggressive interrogation - and the alleged existence of secret detention centres in a number of countries is a cause of great concern to the Working Group. In the experience of the Working Group, secret detention creates situations inviting further abuse, including disappearance. The Working Group reminds all Governments that under article 7 of the Declaration, “No circumstances whatsoever, whether a threat of war, a state of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked to justify enforced disappearances”. This includes any type of counter-terrorist campaign. The Working Group urges all Governments to comply with their obligations under international human rights and international humanitarian law, in particular under the Declaration, and to make available to families all information on the fate and whereabouts of any person who is arrested and detained, for whatever reason. (E/CN.4/2006/56, para. 594)

E/CN.4/2004/58 (paras. 35, 36, 138, 140, 209, 256, 271, 314)

Country mandates

  • Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan
Post-11 September developments and their impact on the human rights situation and humanitarian assistance A/56/409/Add.1 (paras. 8-13)
  • Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967

Report E/CN.4/2005/29/Add.1 (para 23)

Report E/CN.4/2004/6 (chap.II)

Report E/CN.4/2004/6/Add.1 (chap.I)

Report E/CN.4/2003/30 (chap.I)

Report A/57/366 (chap.II)

**** To add the following statement s into Press Statement of the Special Procedures on anti-terrorism at the left column

4 October 2006


UN Special Rapporteur calls for further amendments to counter-terrorism legislation in Bahrain
25 July 2006

UN Special Rapporteur comments on newly adopted counter-terrorism legislation in Israel
4 July 2006

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