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(Geneva) – The United Nations should appoint a high-level expert to monitor the impact of counter-terrorist measures on human rights, Human Rights Watch urged today.

In a new report released at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, Human Rights Watch highlighted abuses being committed around the world in the name of the international fight against terrorism. The report includes case studies from China, Egypt, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Russia, Spain, United Kingdom, United States and Uzbekistan.

“We’ve been concerned since September 11 that governments would use the war against terror to justify human rights abuses,” said Rory Mungoven, global advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “Now this trend is becoming more systematic, with lasting effects on the human rights landscape.”

The Human Rights Watch report highlights systematic violation of due process rights, far-reaching restrictions on civil liberties, crackdowns against internal political movements, allegations of torture, tightening of controls on refugees and migrants and arbitrary detention of non-nationals. For instance:

  • The United States’ response to September 11 has seen the arbitrary and secret detention of non-citizens, secret deportation hearings and the military detention without charge or access to counsel of U.S. citizens designated as "enemy combatants;”
  • In China, Tibetan and Uighur activists have been accused of terrorism and sentenced to death after unfair trials;
  • In Egypt, the authorities have arrested hundreds of suspected government opponents, many for alleged membership in the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned but non-violent group, and possession of “suspicious” literature;
  • In India, children as young as 12 have been arrested under a sweeping new anti-terrorist law;
  • Russia has justified its abusive war in Chechnya by linking it to the global campaign against terrorism;
  • The United Kingdom has derogated from its human rights obligations and passed new laws which permit the long-term, arbitrary detention of foreign nationals;
  • Terrorist suspects have been extradited between countries extra-legally and without due process, even when they may be at risk of torture.
    Human Rights Watch welcomed the priority given to this issue by the U.N. Secretary-General and High Commissioner for Human Rights, but warned that the United Nations had failed to respond institutionally to this challenge.

The U.N. Security Council has made counter-terrorist measures mandatory for all states, but has excluded human rights from the work of its Counter Terrorism Committee. Many regional organizations have adopted their own counter-terrorist programs, often with sweeping definitions of terrorism and no reference to human rights. Some U.N. human rights bodies and experts have raised concerns but have been unable, by virtue of their limited mandates, to present a comprehensive analysis.

In December last year, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution affirming the need to protect human rights in counter-terrorist measures, and asked the Secretary-General to report with recommendations for action.

Human Rights Watch urged the Secretary-General to appoint a special representative to focus political attention on the issue, monitor abuses in different countries, and make recommendations and urgent appeals to governments and international and regional bodies.

“Human rights abuses will fuel terrorism, not defeat it,” Mungoven said. “Governments must be stopped from using counter-terrorism as a pretext for repression.”

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