Middle East and North Africa Regional Symposium on Fair Trial
The Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) Working Group on Protecting Human Rights while Countering Terrorism hosted a Middle East and North Africa Regional Symposium on "Fair trial and Due Process in the Counter-Terrorism Context" on 6 – 7 February in Istanbul, Turkey.
The Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) Working Group on Protecting Human Rights while Countering Terrorism hosted a Middle East and North Africa Regional Symposium on "Fair trial and Due Process in the Counter-Terrorism Context" on 6 – 7 February in Istanbul, Turkey. The Symposium was the first gathering of State prosecutors, judges, practitioners and experts from the Middle East and North Africa region on the subject of ensuring fair trials for terrorist suspects.
In his keynote speech, Istanbul’s Prosecutor-General, Turan Çolakkadı, emphasized on the strategic importance of upholding human rights and the rule of law in countering terrorism, since violating human rights and undermining the rule of law only helps terrorists in the long-run. “Terrorist organizations provoke Governments and want them to violate human rights,” he said. “When Governments fall into that trap and trample over human rights in counter-terrorism activities, it is the terrorists who win by gaining recruits and creating a narrative that justifies their existence.”
The Offices of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Beirut, Geneva and New York Offices took a lead role in guiding the discussions at the Symposium. Mr. Fateh Azzam, Regional Representative of OHCHR in the Middle East noted the relevance of the Symposium for the region. “The symposium allows us together to examine questions of accountability for past abuses, both at individual and institutional levels,” he said. “Looking forward, and taking into account the historic changes taking place in the Middle East and North Africa region, the symposium provides a forum to discuss how counter-terrorism institutions can be both effective in their mission and safeguard the rights of all persons within their jurisdictions.
The Symposium was convened to provide an opportunity for States of the Middle East and North Africa region to analyse their experiences and assess the national and regional challenges encountered in implementing the requirements for fair trial, as set out in international human rights law and standards. The Symposium also helped identify some key human rights-related developments, notable principles and guidelines that States must follow good practices already in place with respect to the conduct of fair trials and the protection of human rights.
In the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, States including those from the MENA region committed to "make every effort to develop and maintain an effective and rule of law-based national criminal justice system that guarantees due process rights regardless of the offence."
Likewise under the law, persons charged with criminal offences, including terrorism-related crimes, are entitled to the usual series of specific due process rights, including the right to be presumed innocent, to be tried within a reasonable time and a right to have a conviction and sentence reviewed by a higher court or tribunal in conformity with international human rights law.
The MENA meeting is the second in a series of regional expert symposiums on issues related to the protection of human rights in the context of countering terrorism, organized by the CTITF Working Group on Protecting Human Rights while Countering Terrorism. The first symposium was held last year for Southeast Asia in Bangkok.
Participants at the Istanbul Symposium included senior representatives of the Ministry of Justice, judges, and prosecutors from regional countries, CTITF Working Group members, international human rights experts and civil society representatives.
A report on the outcome of the expert meeting will be produced as guidance material on how human rights can best be protected in the context of fair trial.