Human Rights Watch today called on the European Union leadership to convene an expert panel to review all new security proposals for compliance with international human rights standards.

The recommendation was made on the eve of two high-level meetings in Brussels to discuss and develop the E.U.'s anti-terrorism effort. On Tuesday, the Belgian Presidency will convene a Ministerial Conference on migration, to be followed Wednesday by an extraordinary General Affairs Council meeting on combating terrorism.

"The challenge for policymakers is to make sure their response to the September 11 attacks does not violate fundamental rights," said Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia Division. "What's at stake are the basic rights of asylum seekers and migrants to avoid discrimination and abuse, and to find refuge from persecution."

Human Rights Watch called for the establishment of the panel and a process for civil society to contribute to its work as a safeguard against rushing through measures that might seriously undermine essential rights and freedoms valued by the E.U. Such a process is necessary for the E.U. to meet the principles of transparency and democratic accountability affirmed at the 1999 Tampere European Council on justice and migration issues, the group said.

"These proposals are being deliberated at an unprecedented pace," said Elizabeth Andersen. "There needs to be a full, transparent, and democratic debate about how the union can be secure and protect basic rights at the same time."

Human Rights Watch has a delegation in Brussels this week to meet with E.U. officials to discuss the human rights implications of the security proposals.