Working Group on Protecting Human Rights While Countering Terrorism
United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy:
Section IV: “We resolve to undertake the following measures, reaffirming that the promotion and protection of human rights for all and the rule of law is essential to all components of the Strategy, recognizing that effective counter-terrorism measures and the protection of human rights are not conflicting goals, but complementary and mutually reinforcing, and stressing the need to promote and protect the rights of victims of terrorism…”
Participants meet for the tenth session of the Human Rights Council, Geneva, Switzerland
UN Photo/Pierre-Michel Virot
The Working Group aims to support efforts by Member States to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of counter-terrorism. This includes an assessment of support and assistance currently available to Member States, as well as the facilitation of information exchange on human rights concerns and best practice examples on the protection of human rights in the context of counter-terrorism. The Working Group identifies gaps and weaknesses and develops proposals for strengthening support to Member States on the protection of human rights in the context of counter-terrorism at the national level.
As part of its practical contributions to the UN community and beyond, the Working Group started developing practical tools to assist Member States in strengthening the protection of human rights in the context of counter-terrorism in ten specific areas. The tools, called Basic Human Rights Reference Guides, will serve as reference documents to guide national action, serve as checklists for national assessment processes and address capacity building needs of Member States. The tools are expected to be useful in providing clear directions as to how Member States can adopt human rights compliant measures in the selected areas. The tools will be internet-based and supported by a compilation of documents and relevant treaties and reports. A workshop on the issue was held in September 2008 and an outcome note of this workshop is available below. In September 2010, the first two of the Basic Human Rights Reference Guide, the first one on stopping and searching of persons and the second one on protecting security infrastructure, were launched. Future Guides on detention in the context of counter-terrorism, the principle of legality in national counter-terrorism legislation and the proscription of organizations will be launched in due course.
In 2008, the Working Group also organised an expert seminar which focused on the impact of terrorism and counter-terrorism measures on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR). It gathered a number of experts from various part of the world, as well as some members of the Working Group. A number of concrete recommendations and suggestions were made by participants at the seminar, and a report summarizing the discussions has been produced. The findings will inform the on-going work of the Working Group on the development of practical tools, as well as provide input for the development of policy guidance and recommendations for the promotion and enhancement of the protection of ESCR in the context of countering-terrorism when providing assistance and advice to Member States. In addition, the Working Group has in 2008 cooperated with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism and OHCHR in organizing an expert meeting on International Aviation Law. Discussions included the potential role of international bodies in promoting legal safeguards and preventing potential human rights violations when states engage in counter-terrorism practices that involve aircrafts, airports or air space.
The Working Group has also facilitated consultation on additional tools produced by CTITF member entities, such as the OHCHR Fact Sheet on Human Rights, Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism (a comprehensive document aimed at State authorities, NGOs, legal practitioners and individuals, which examines the complex and multifaceted links between human rights and counterterrorism) and the UNODC Handbook on Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism.
The Working Group aims to continue bringing together relevant stakeholders at the national and/or regional levels to help facilitate the exchange of information and experiences, through the organization of regional workshops on specific thematic issues, with a regional focus. Issues related to the right to a fair trial in the context of countering terrorism have been identified as a possible theme for such a workshop in the early part 2011.
- Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) (lead)
- Counter-terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED)
- International Maritime Organization (IMO)
- International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL)
- Monitoring Team of 1267 Committee
- Office of Legal Affairs (OLA)
- Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism
- United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI)
- United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
- International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
- United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
- United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)