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A permanent United Nations counterterrorism body must have a strong human rights component, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said on the eve of an open debate of the Security Council on the establishment of such a mechanism.

The Security Council is currently discussing a draft resolution that would establish a Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter. This new body, operating under the policy guidance from the Council would monitor the implementation of counterterrorist measures by states worldwide.

“The Security Council has mandated sweeping counterterrorist measures since the September 11 attacks, and has a responsibility to ensure these do not violate human rights,” said Joanna Weschler, U.N. Representative for Human Rights Watch. “The proposed new directorate must include human rights experts to advise governments on how to protect human rights while tackling terrorism.”

Initially, the Security Council has strongly resisted the inclusion of any human rights concerns within the scope of its Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), established by the Security Council in September 2001. In January 2003, however, the Security Council acknowledged human rights concerns in Resolution 1456, which requires states to “ensure that any measure taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law and should adopt such measures in compliance with international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.”

" Human rights are now an important part of the Security Council's work which the CTC has ignored for too long," said Yvonne Terlingen, Amnesty International's representative at the United Nations. "This is the right time for the CTC to address the human rights deficit in its work."

While the Counter-Terrorism Committee has had ad hoc contacts with U.N. human rights experts, these have been partial and limited in scope. The current proposal calls for “regular liaison with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,” which is a first step in the right direction. However, the new body needs to go beyond liaison to build its own capacity to actively follow compliance with the human rights provisions of Resolution 1456.

“The new counterterrorism body needs in-house human rights expertise to provide advice and support to governments and promote best practices to protect human rights in the fight against terrorism,” said Terlingen.

The full text of Human Rights Watch’s letter to Security Council ambassadors can be found at


On February 19, the Chairman of the CTC presented a proposal for the revitalization of the CTC "by giving the CTC further means to fulfil its mandate of monitoring the implementation of Security Council resolution 1373.” It proposes that the CTC will consist of a plenary - consisting of the Security Council's member states and the Bureau - and be supported by a new Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate. The Directorate will be headed by a new post of Executive Director and comprise up to 20 experts.

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