Human Rights Council discusses the protection of human rights while countering terrorism

Concludes Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders

The Human Rights Council this afternoon began an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while *countering terrorism ***Fionnuala Ni Aolain****. **It also concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst.

Ms. Ni Aolain *presented her annual report on the human rights consequences and effects of programmes policies laws and practices related to preventing and countering violent extremism globally regionally and nationally. The Special Rapporteur was deeply concerned about the ongoing trend of the misuse of measures for countering terrorism and violent extremism against human rights defenders and civil society. She was also deeply concerned that many counter terrorism programmes and practices were directly contributing to the violation of human rights at the national level. Above all she was worried that such widespread and negative human rights practices may support the conditions conducive to terrorism and violent extremism rather than prevent them. She also presented a report on her country visit to Kazakhstan**. *

**Kazakhstan spoke as the concerned country. **

In the discussion on counter terrorism speakers agreed that national sovereignty could not be used as a pretext for violating human rights and that efforts to combat terrorism could not compromise human rights. Policies aimed at preventing and countering violent extremism must never be used to stifle peaceful political dissidence. Speakers pointed to a widespread misuse of counter terrorism measures in many countries to limit freedom of expression online and offline. Only rights based policies founded in respect for the rule of law would have long term success in preventing radicalization and terrorism. The international community had to address both internal and external causes of terrorism and violent extremism such as ongoing conflict socio economic inequality and foreign occupation.

Speaking were Burkina Faso (on behalf of the African Group) European Union Denmark (on behalf of a group of countries) Libya Mexico Qatar Burkina Faso Switzerland Cuba Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation) Saudi Arabia France Philippines Pakistan Netherlands Tunisia Morocco Ireland Egypt Myanmar Azerbaijan Russian Federation Uruguay Syria and Venezuela.

At the beginning of the meeting the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst. A summary of the first part of the discussion held in the previous meeting can be read here.

In the discussion on human rights defenders speakers urged States to ensure respect of international human rights law and international humanitarian law and protect human rights defenders. Increasing attacks on civil society space and defenders in every region across the globe rendered the work and the mandate of the Special Rapporteur more relevant than ever. His report highlighted multi faceted challenges that defenders faced while documenting their contributions in conflict and post conflict situations speakers noted. The report also highlighted that defenders were particularly at risk when they belonged to indigenous communities or to certain religious or ethnic minorities or because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The ongoing systemic efforts by States and non State actors to silence defenders were alarming.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Ecuador Costa Rica Pakistan Netherlands Tunisia Fiji Morocco Denmark Lithuania Ireland Montenegro Honduras Egypt Latvia Russian Federation Uruguay Venezuela Sweden Indonesia Albania Maldives Paraguay China Norway Thailand Georgia Belgium United Kingdom Iceland Slovakia Bosnia and Herzegovina Finland Marshall Islands Cameroon Armenia Qatar Peru Mexico and France.

Also taking the floor were the following national human rights institutions and non governmental organizations : Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions Human Rights Commission of Zimbabwe Colombian Commission of Jurists Comision Mexicana de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos International Service for Human Rights Human Rights House Foundation Sociedade Maranhense de Direitos Humanos Peace Brigades International Switzerland World Organisation against Torture Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Reseau international des droits humains and Oidhaco Bureau International des Droits Humains Action Colombie.

Brazil India China Armenia Mongolia Pakistan and Azerbaijan spoke in right of reply.

The Council will meet again on Thursday 5 March at 10 a.m. to conclude its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. It is then scheduled to hold separate interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy and with the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

The interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders started in the previous meeting and the summary can be found here.

Discussion with the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

Speakers urged States to ensure the respect of international human rights law and international humanitarian law and the protection of human rights defenders. All had to be vigilant as human rights defenders were playing an important role in protecting human rights worldwide. Increasing attacks on civil society space and defenders in every region across the globe rendered the work and the mandate of the Special Rapporteur more relevant than ever. The report highlighted multi faceted challenges that defenders faced while documenting their contributions in conflict and post conflict situations. It also highlighted that defenders were particularly at risk when they belonged to indigenous communities or to certain religious or ethnic minorities or because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The ongoing systemic efforts by States and non State actors to silence defenders were alarming. Attacks on or intimidation of defenders especially killings enforced disappearances arbitrary detention torture and sexual violence were strongly condemned. Defenders including journalists and humanitarian workers played a crucial role in documenting violations of international law and human rights especially when access to conflict and post conflict zones was restricted. Their work was invaluable for peace security and justice. Human rights defenders were commended for cooperating with the Office of the High Commissioner Special Procedures and international human rights mechanisms which was vital to prevent entire areas from becoming black holes and impunity traps in cases where international scrutiny was limited or absent.

All had to do more to ensure the rights of human rights defenders and their protection both online and on the ground. Global initiatives and efforts had to be translated into action on the ground. Human rights defenders were also agents for the realization of the 2030 Agenda and played a vital role in the local context. The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions and other regional networks played a crucial role in protecting the rights of human rights defenders with a view to exchanging experiences and best practices in order to strengthen national legislation. The Rapporteur was asked how States could support the development of a United Nations wide strategy on human rights defenders in line with the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. What actions could the Council and States take individually and in cooperation together to better ensure the protection of defenders operating in conflict and post conflict situations? What should be done to address specific challenges faced by women human rights defenders operating in conflict and post conflict areas?

Interim Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

MICHEL FORST Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders thanked the Government of Colombia for its strong support for his mandate adding that he looked forward to seeing the implementation of his recommendations by that country. Likewise he thanked Mongolia noting that he would support it in its adoption of the first law to protect human rights defenders in Asia. Mr. Forst reminded that there was a very broad definition of defenders within the United Nations system in order to ensure that States and other actors understood that it applied to all countries. As for the protection of human rights defenders in conflict areas it was important that international human rights law ceased to be violated and that perpetrators were effectively held accountable. States should hold meetings on how to support human rights defenders in peacebuilding operations. The international community needed a system wide strategy on defenders who should be able to rely on the United Nations. The Special Rapporteur reminded that his report included examples of good practices on the protection of defenders foremost the work done around the Barcelona Guidelines.

Discussion with the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

Whereas some speakers expressed full support for the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and upheld its relevance and renewal others could not agree with the Special Rapporteur to place human rights defenders into a separate category as well as a separate protection category. It was equally inappropriate to include in the definition of human rights defenders journalists humanitarian workers and medical professionals involved in the provision of humanitarian aid and lawyers working in the area of education. In many cases speakers underlined the funding from foreign countries for certain non governmental organizations that falsely fought for the so called noble causes contributed to violence and political destabilization of legally elected Governments. Furthermore there was inconsistency in the definition of human rights defenders who should not enjoy a status above the law.

In spite of certain support and awareness of the work of human rights defenders speakers nonetheless expressed concern about the increasing number of reports of judicial harassment repression threats and attacks on them both online and on the ground. There was a growing trend of harassment of defenders by religious extremists particularly by non State actors with tacit support from the State. Speakers reminded that human rights defenders were critical to protecting a number of rights including environmental rights securing working conditions combatting corruption and respecting indigenous cultural rights. Their contribution both nationally and internationally pushed countries even closer to the full realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Speakers thus called on all States to uphold international human rights and humanitarian law securing the protection and operation of human rights defenders including journalists humanitarian workers and medical professionals among others. Speakers asked the Special Rapporteur about concrete measures that could be taken to ensure that cases of reprisals in conflict and post conflict contexts against defenders including women human rights defenders were followed up systematically. Those countries with the highest murder rate of human rights defenders should implement the Special Rapporteurs recommendations rather than challenge them speakers emphasized. Likewise the Human Rights Council should follow up with concrete actions such as the strengthening of the early warning system of the human rights procedures.

Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

MICHEL FORST Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders thanked all delegations for their support to his mandate. The mandate also included providing technical assistance to countries. Unfortunately numerous States continued to question the definition of human rights defenders although it had already been presented by his predecessor. There were human rights defenders who were members of civil society but also journalists bloggers indigenous people that were fighting against companies to protect their land agents of change that safeguarded democracy and political militants. They were the people fighting for all rights. A mandate such as this one had to be accessible on the ground and close to human rights defenders. Many areas remained to be addressed which would be determined by his successor. More had to be done to ensure that protection measures were inclusive. There were not enough meetings with social movements. There was a need to act proactively with corporations.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the **Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism **(A/HRC/43/46). The advance unedited version can be found at A/HRC/43/46

The Council has before it an addendum **to the **Report of the Special Rapporteur **on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism Visit to Kazakhstan **(A/HRC/43/46/Add.1).

The Council has before it an addendum **to the **Report of the Special Rapporteur **on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism Comments by Kazakhstan **(A/HRC/43/46/Add.2).

Presentation of Reports by the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism

FIONNUALA NA� AOLA�IN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while *countering terrorism presented her annual report on the human rights consequences and effects of programmes policies laws and practices related to preventing and countering violent extremism globally regionally and nationally. She also presented the report on her country visit to Kazakhstan. In the past year the Special Rapporteur said she had prioritized deepening the institutional relationships of the mandate with other global entities engaged in counter terrorism regulation within and outside the United Nations system. As a deeply engaged participant in the work of the Global Counter Terrorism Coordination Compact she underscored the ongoing challenges to the mandate in the limited resources available to Special Procedures compounded by budget cuts to travel and the lack of specific budget line support to the work of the mandate within the Global Counter Terrorism Coordination Compact. It was stating the obvious that when Special Rapporteurs had to use research funds from their universities to do their essential and required work as Special Rapporteurs there was something profoundly amiss in the meaningful support of States to the work of human rights mainstreaming in the counter terrorism space. *

*The Special Rapporteur noted the surge in individual communications and confirmed the ongoing trend of the misuse of measures for countering terrorism and violent extremism against human rights defenders and civil society. That was neither compliant with international law nor effective counter terrorism. The protection of human rights in the context of countering terrorism continued to be a fraught and precarious exercise. The Special Rapporteurs report recognized and acknowledged the global challenges of rising incidents and institutionalization of violent extremism and the costs borne by individuals and communities as a result. Preventing and countering violent extremism as a discourse and practice did not emerge in a neutral universe. It arrived after almost two decades of the post 11 September 2001 counter terrorism regulation into a well defined global counter terrorism architecture that had entrenched and consolidated since. The Special Rapporteur was deeply concerned that many programmes and practices were directly contributing to the violation of human rights at the national level. Above all she was worried that such widespread and negative human rights practices may support the conditions conducive to terrorism and violent extremism rather than prevent them. There was a glaring lack of robust scientific data underpinning many of the claims made by States and international institutions to advance the use of preventing and countering violent extremism. The Special Rapporteur was particularly troubled about the lack of any systematic and empirically grounded monitoring and evaluation of such programmes including assessing their human rights impact. *

*Turning to her visit to Kazakhstan the Special Rapporteur applauded the countrys willingness to allow her to access more than 500 women and children returnees. Given the continuing humanitarian disaster unfolding in Syria and the extreme vulnerability of women and children as victims of terrorism the example of Kazakhstan was important in that regard. The Special Rapporteur also commended positive advances in Kazakhstans penal system. However there were a number of areas where substantial strengthening and revision of the legal system were necessary namely with respect to the aspects of the criminal law concerning terrorism and extremism which were too broad and vaguely defined. *

Statement by the Concerned Country

Kazakhstan speaking as a concerned country noted the report with appreciation and said that the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Information and Social Development had provided responses to issues highlighted in the report. Respect for human rights and the rule of law was at the foundation of counter terrorism measures in Kazakhstan. The national counter terrorism strategy aimed to prevent violent extremism and to promote human rights. Important political changes had taken place since the visit. After the 2019 elections a new President had been elected. He established the National Council of Public Trust as a platform for dialogue between civil society and the State. Important reforms included abolishing the death penalty and revising the law on peaceful assembly. Kazakhstan recognized the complex nature of the relationship between human rights and terrorism. Sadly women and children were disproportionately affected by violent extremism. In 2019 two special humanitarian missions took place and 600 Kazakh citizens the majority of them women and children were returned from Syria and Iraq.

Discussion with the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism

Speakers shared many concerns expressed in the report. They recalled what the United Nations Secretary General stated on the first day of the Council that national sovereignty could not be a pretext for violating human rights and efforts to combat terrorism could not compromise human rights. Policies aimed at preventing and countering violent extremism must never be used to stifle peaceful political dissidence. There was a widespread misuse of counter terrorism measures in many countries to limit freedom of expression online and offline. Only rights based policies founded in respect for the rule of law would have long term success in preventing radicalization and terrorism. States were therefore called on to cooperate with the mandate and positively respond to requests to visit. Violent extremism and terrorism were cross border phenomena and could not rely on the efforts of one country alone. The international community had to be included and had to properly monitor that combatting terrorism was done in line with international standards. Moreover the international community had to address both internal and external causes of terrorism and violent extremism such as ongoing conflict socio economic inequality and foreign occupation. Countries listed the efforts they had undertaken in combatting terrorism and violent extremism as well as their root causes. It was underlined that extremism or terrorism should not be associated with any religion but ethnic profiling unfortunately continued. Young people were particularly vulnerable to radicalization and some countries outlined their efforts in de radicalisation and combatting fake news.

States noted from their own experience that any counter terrorism programme had to have a strong socio economic orientation employing a whole of government and a whole of nation approach based on concrete human rights and a good governance agenda. This view was not only in line with the goal of leavening no one behind under the Sustainable Development Goals agenda it was crucial in making people resilient against risks of exploitation by terrorist groups in a country. Some delegations welcomed the Rapporteurs observation that the fastest accelerating terrorism threat globally stemmed from far right wing violent extremism. Preventing violent extremism was an obligation under the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However the application of vague and overly broad definitions of extremism might be used to unlawfully restrict fundamental freedoms and target human rights defenders. States welcomed that the report acknowledged the rights of victims of terrorism. The Special Rapporteur was asked what States and the United Nations system could do to ensure that effective counter terrorism and the protection of human rights were not conflicting goals. What other measures incorporating human rights could countries adopt to fight against terrorism? The Rapporteur was asked to elaborate on how women and girls were co opted in top down governmental policies to address extremism.

Interim Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism

FIONNUALA NA� AOLA�IN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism responding to questions about the conditions that were conducive to violent extremism noted that poor governance was an important underlying factor. She agreed with the observation of some delegations that military approaches were short term and short sighted. Quick counter terrorism and violent extremism policies were not a solution to long term and entrenched conflicts the Special Rapporteur underlined adding that respect for economic social and cultural rights was the key to stemming terrorism and violent extremism. What States should keep in mind was that measures for the prevention of terrorism and violent extremism could be as coercive as counter terrorism measures. If communities did not trust the States authorities the problem that led to violence in the first place could not be solved. The Special Rapporteur underlined that there was a global counter terrorism strategy review ongoing in New York and she called on Member States to be prepared to support that pillar of the United Nations. Human rights were essential for inter State cooperation in the counter terrorism field. It was critical that civil society be included meaningfully in efforts to prevent terrorism and violent extremism the Special Rapporteur stressed adding that the exercise entailed actually listening and engaging with civil society at the local level. In that respect it would be very useful to establish an office for civil society in the global counter terrorism architecture.

Discussion with the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism

States recalled that terrorism posed a global problem and they strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations including violent extremism and armed separatism. The concern of the Special Rapporteur on the lack of an agreed definition of violent extremism was shared by countries as it could lead to discriminatory policies and selective policies which could lead to interference in national matters. While protracted conflicts and armed separatism were among the central factors to be addressed the tackling of root causes required sustainable commitment by States. Terrorism had a detrimental effect on the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms such as the right to life liberty and security of person and it posed a threat to the territorial integrity of the State. Nonetheless measures aimed at preventing and combatting terrorism had to be consistent with international legal obligations of States and applied in a manner respecting the human rights of all individuals. The continued influx of terrorist networks in conflict zones and their financing raised the issue of duality since some countries were adopting counter terrorism polices and at the same time were supporting ideologies used by terrorists. The fight against terrorism had to involve the entire international community and it had to rely on the cooperation of all countries. Nonetheless some countries were still training and financing terrorists.

Source: UN Human Rights Council

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