Human Rights News

U.N.: Counterterrorism Body Neglects Human Rights

(New York, August 10, 2004) – The United Nations Security Council has disregarded the critical role of human rights in its counterterrorism efforts, Human Rights Watch charged in a briefing paper released today.

" When human rights are abused in the war against terror, both causes suffer. The cause of human rights suffers, but the cause of combatting terror suffers, too. "
Joanna Weschler, UN Advocacy Director
  

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The 17-page briefing paper, “Hear No Evil, See No Evil: The U.N. Security Council’s Approach to Human Rights Violations in the Global Counter-Terrorism Effort,” documents how countries as diverse as Egypt, Uzbekistan, Malaysia, Morocco and Sweden—have violated human rights in their efforts to combat terrorism. These are the very kinds of violations that the U.N. Counter-Terrorism Committee should pay closer attention to.  
 
“Governments around the world are using the global campaign against terrorism to crack down on human rights,” said Joanna Weschler, U.N. Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch. “The U.N. Security Council has been conspicuously silent about this dangerous trend.”  
 
The U.N. Security Council should immediately appoint at least one human rights expert to the staff of the newly created Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate, Human Rights Watch urged.  
 
The Security Council should pay particular attention to governments conducting mass arrests of terrorism suspects, Human Rights Watch said. Either those states face an alarming terrorist threat and need immediate international assistance, or counterterrorism legislation is being used excessively, inappropriately and perhaps opportunistically.  
 
When suspects are convicted of terrorism-related charges in unfair judicial proceedings or as a result of being tortured, the real terrorist threats may not have been removed from society, Human Rights Watch said.  
 
“When human rights are abused in the name of counterterrorism, both causes suffer,” said Weschler.  
 
Human Rights Watch also urged that states should report to the Counter-Terrorism Committee in a more systematic, complete and timely way. The current chairman of the Counter-Terrorism Committee, Acting Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the U.N. Alexander Konuzin, told the Security Council on July 19 that the committee had received 515 reports by the June 30 deadline, 160 of which were second reports, 116 of which were third reports, 4 of which were fourth reports, and 2 of which were from non-member states. However, 71 states had not yet submitted reports, although the deadline had passed. More timely and complete reporting, combined with a greater focus on human rights on the part of the Security Council, would help create more effective counterterrorism techniques.  
 
Human Rights Watch suggested several reforms, including:  
• appointing human rights experts to the counterterrorism body  
• making public the requests that are sent by the Counter-Terrorism Committee for supplementary information from states to permit public scrutiny of the committee’s concerns  
• applying more pressure on states to encourage the timely submission of reports.  
 
“Hear No Evil, See No Evil” is available at:  
 
http://hrw.org/backgrounder/un/2004/un0804/