Protecting Human Rights while countering terrorism

The issue of terrorism and human rights has long been a concern of the United Nations. Following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001and subsequent surge in acts of terrorism worldwide, it has become even more urgent.  While condemning terrorism unequivocally and recognizing the duty of States to protect those living within their jurisdictions from terrorism, the United Nations has placed a priority on the question of protecting human rights in the context of counter-terrorism measures.

The defense of human rights and upholding the rule of law while countering terrorism is indeed at the heart of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Member States acknowledged that effective counter-terrorism measures and the protection of human rights were not conflicting goals but complementary and mutually reinforcing aims. They pledged to take measures aimed at addressing violations of human rights and to ensure that any measures taken to counter terrorism comply with their human rights obligations.

Human Rights Special Rapporteur

A concrete endorsement by Member States of the need to make the protection of human rights an integral part of the international fight against terrorism was demonstrated by the creation in 2005 of a post of Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.

Photo of Ben Emmerson

The Special Rapporteur, operating under the new Human Rights Council, works to identify, exchange and promote best practices on measures to counter terrorism that respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Special Rapporteur also addresses allegations of human rights violations in the course of countering terrorism. He conducts visits to selected individual countries and has engaged in correspondence with more than 40 countries about their laws and practices. He reports regularly both to the Human Rights Council and to the General Assembly, including on selected thematic issues and his country visits.

The current Special Rapporteur is Mr. Ben Emmerson, Q.C. (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), who has assumed his mandate on 1 August 2011.

The first Special Rapporteur (1 August 2005 - 31 July 2011) was Mr. Martin Scheinin (Finland).

Further information on the work of the Special Rapporteur can be obtained from the following link: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Terrorism/Pages/SRTerrorismIndex.aspx.

The first two guides on stopping and searching of persons and on protecting security infrastructure were launched in September 2010: