Terrorism poses a serious threat, not only to international peace and security, but also to the enjoyment of human rights and social and economic development. Member States are therefore under a human rights obligation to safeguard the security of their citizens, including through effective counter-terrorism measures.
Beginning with its adoption of resolution 1456 (2003), the Security Council has consistently affirmed that States must ensure that any measures taken to counter terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee, and international humanitarian law. More recently, the Council has underscored that effective counter-terrorism measures and respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law are complementary and mutually reinforcing, and constitute an essential part of successful counter-terrorism efforts. In its resolution 2178 (2014), the Council stated that failure to comply with these and other international obligations, including under the Charter of the United Nations, fosters a sense of impunity and is one of the factors contributing to increased radicalization.
With the establishment of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), the Committee began moving toward a more proactive policy on human rights. CTED was mandated to liaise with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and other human rights organizations in matters related to counter-terrorism (S/2004/124), and human rights experts were appointed to its staff. In the Counter-Terrorism Committee’s reports to the Security Council, submitted as part of its comprehensive reviews of the work of CTED, the Committee states that CTED should take account of relevant human rights obligations (S/2005/800 and S/2006/989). In May 2006, the Committee adopted human rights policy guidance for CTED. The Committee and CTED now routinely take account of relevant human rights issues in all their activities, including country visits and other interactions with Member States.
Security Council resolution 1624 (2005), which addresses incitement to commit terrorist acts, stresses that States must ensure that any measures they take to implement the resolution comply with all their obligations under international law. The resolution’s preamble highlights, inter alia, the relevance of the right to freedom of expression to counter-incitement measures, and states that incitement poses a serious and growing danger to the enjoyment of human rights.
In accordance with Security Council resolution 1805 (2008), CTED established an internal Working Group on Issues Raised by resolution 1624 (2005) and Human Rights Aspects of Counter-Terrorism in the Context of resolution 1373 (2001). The Working Group’s main objectives are to enhance expertise and develop common approaches by CTED staff on human rights issues, as well as to consider ways in which the Committee might more effectively encourage Member States to comply with their international obligations in this area. More recently, in its resolution 2129 (2013), the Council encourages CTED to further develop its activities in the areas of human rights and rule of law, “to ensure that all issues relevant to the implementation of resolutions 1373 (2001) and 1624 (2005) are addressed consistently and even-handedly, including, as appropriate, on country visits that are organized with the consent of the visited Member State and in the delivery of technical assistance”.
In its Global Survey of the implementation of resolution 1373 (2001) by Member States, CTED drew attention to a range of human rights issues relevant to the implementation of the resolution. It observed, for example, that some States had proposed or enacted special measures that departed from standard criminal or administrative procedures, including by extending permissible periods of investigative or pre-trial detention or imposing limits on access to counsel. CTED also noted that United Nations human rights mechanisms had expressed concern that such provisions might not comply with States’ international human rights obligations.
Since its inception, the Counter-Terrorism Committee has been regularly briefed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights (including former High Commissioners Mary Robinson, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and Navanethem Pillay), as well as by the Vice Chairman of the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Council, on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism. OHCHR has submitted notes to the Committee on the human rights obligations of States in the context of counter-terrorism, and regularly liaises with CTED on a number of issues. CTED also works closely with the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) as a member of its Working Group on Human Rights and Rule of Law.