The Commission on Human Rights should adopt a further resolution on the protection of human rights in countering terrorism that would reaffirm the importance of the respect for international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law in combating terrorism; request relevant mechanisms and bodies of the United Nations to continue monitoring counter terrorism measures; acknowledge the continuing gaps in the international human rights monitoring system with respect to these issues; urge that the Counter Terrorism Committee of the U.N. Security Council address human rights in its work; and establish a special mechanism to monitor the effect of counter-terrorism measures on human rights in countries worldwide.
Counter-terrorist measures continue to violate human rights in many countries. While some of these concerns are not new, they have taken on a more transnational and globalized dimension since the attacks of September 11, 2001, posing new challenges for the U.N. human rights monitoring system. Abuses include prolonged, incommunicado detention without judicial review; the transfer, return, extradition and expulsion of persons at risk of being subjected to torture; and the adoption of security measures that curtail the right to freedom of association and breach the principal of non-discrimination. During 2003, for instance:
- In July, the Israeli Parliament suspended on national security grounds the possibility of family reunification, subject to limited and discretionary exceptions, in the cases of marriages between Israeli citizens and persons residing in the West Bank or Gaza.
- In November, Malaysia passed new counter-terror laws that were widely criticized by local human rights groups for being vague and overbroad, thus putting at risk the basic rights of free expression, association, and assembly. Malaysia continued to hold roughly 100 alleged militants without trial, including five Malaysian students detained for alleged terrorist activity while studying in Karachi, Pakistan.
- In November, a Canadian-Syrian national, Maher Arar, alleged publicly that he had been tortured in a Syrian prison after being handed over to the Syrian authorities by U.S. officials who had detained him while in transit through New York.
- In December, Colombia’s congress approved legislation that would give the military the power to arrest, tap telephones and carry out searches without warrants or any previous judicial order.
- In the first six months of 2003 in Uzbekistan, Human Rights Watch documented ninety-three convictions or new arrests of Muslims for the peaceful expression of their religious beliefs. From June to August, Human Rights Watch followed seven trials against thirty men and six women, all charged with non-violent offences connected to their practice of Islam outside of government controls.
- In her 2003 report, (E/CN.4/2003/104), the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders expressed concern at the rapid expansion of security laws that restricted the work of human rights defenders and, in some cases, targeted activists themselves.
The Secretary-General has repeatedly expressed his concerns about the human rights impact of some counter-terrorist measures, both at the Security Council and at the Commission, saying that there must be no trade-off between human rights and fighting terrorism. The Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights and the head of the United Nations Office in Geneva have also endorsed calls for the creation of a new mechanism to monitor the human rights impacts of counter-terrorist measures.
In November 2003, the Third Committee of the General Assembly passed a second resolution reaffirming the importance of respecting human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law in combating terrorism (A/C.3/58/L.71). The General Assembly requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to submit a study to the Commission on the capacity of existing human rights special procedures and treaty bodies for monitoring these issues, and making recommendations for strengthening the human rights system in this area. It will be incumbent on the Commission to address the gaps and shortcomings identified in the High Commissioner’s report.
The Commission on Human Rights should adopt a resolution on the protection of human rights in countering terrorism that would:
- Emphasize the importance of the respect for international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law in combating terrorism.
- Ask the High Commissioner to continue his/her leadership role in coordinating and encouraging the work of all relevant U.N. bodies and organs on matters related to terrorism and human rights; to make recommendations on safeguarding human rights in combating terrorism; and to seek, receive and exchange information from all relevant sources, including governments, international and non-governmental organizations for these purposes.
- Ask the High Commissioner to provide increased resources and visibility to the work of his/her officeon human rights and counter terrorism.
- Request relevant CHR special procedures and the U.N. treaty bodies to monitor counter terrorism measures adopted and implemented by member states.
- Urge the UN Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee to assess the human rights impacts of counter-terrorist measures and work closely with the High Commissioner, U.N. treaty bodies and special procedures.
- Establish a special monitoring mechanism on human rights and counter-terrorism to examine the effect of counter terrorism measures, law and practices on human rights in countries worldwide; examine the compatibility of these measures, laws and practices with international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law; and make specific and timely recommendations to states on safeguarding human rights while combating terrorism.