Human rights

Counter-terrorism and human rights


Respect for human rights is a critical component of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. The UN Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism also recognizes this as a key priority area.

-- Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General, at Human Rights Council Side Event on Respecting Human Rights while Countering Terrorism

Human rights and the rule of law

The UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (A/RES/60/288), as well as several General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, underscore Member States’ human rights obligations under international law. In particular international human rights law, refugee law and humanitarian law necessitate the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism conducive to terrorism. 

Human rights and the rule of law programming

Through a number of capacity building projects, the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) supports requesting Member States in implementing their human rights obligations in the context of counter-terrorism and preventing violent extremism. 

The technical assistance to Member States in this area is provided in collaboration with relevant UN agencies such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). These include delivering human rights training to law enforcement and security officials, developing human rights training modules for border officials, organizing regional and national-level consultations and awareness events for policymakers, producing publications on key human rights principles applicable to screening at border crossings, and developing a handbook on key principles to ensure the human rights-based treatment of children accompanying or associated with foreign terrorist fighters. 

UNOCT is expanding its capacity-building support by adapting and utilizing already developed training tools and handbooks to deliver training-of-trainers for senior and mid-level law enforcement officials and policy makers on human rights and counter-terrorism. The Office is also planning interventions to raise awareness on the shrinking space for human rights defenders and civil society actors to exercise their freedoms as a consequence of counter-terrorism measures that are not human rights-compliant.

Key counter-terrorism priorities

On November 16 2017, UN Secretary-General António Guterres delivers an address on counter-terrorism and human rights at SOAS University of London. The Secretary-General suggested five key counter-terrorism priorities in the fight against it: governments must work together, focus on prevention, defend human rights, win the battle of ideas, and amplify the voices of the victims.

Counter-terrorism resources

UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy

The UN General Assembly adopted by consensus the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy on 8 September 2006. The strategy is a unique global instrument to enhance national, regional and international efforts to counter terrorism. The General Assembly reviews the Strategy every two years, making it a living document attuned to Member States’ counter-terrorism priorities.

Human rights & counter-terrorism