Counter-terrorism measures increasingly diverging from human rights standards, UN expert warns

NEW YORK (13 October 2021) – Efforts to improve counter-terrorism measures around the world are damaging human rights and the rule of law, a UN expert told the General Assembly today, calling for greater accountability as countries build institutions to combat terrorism.

"I am deeply concerned by the increasing tendency to neglect fundamental rights and freedoms when addressing terrorism issues," said Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. "This has a severe impact on the integrity of the rule of law and governance."

She made the comments in presenting a report suggesting ways human rights should be put at the heart of training and technical assistance aimed at combatting terrorism at the national, regional and global levels.

"Counter-terrorism capacity-building and technical assistance are increasingly diverging from international human rights standards," Ní Aoláin said. "Twenty years after tragic events of September 11, with an unprecedented growth in funding for counter-terrorism, the situation is steadily getting worse.

"We are in dire need of an overhaul of capacity-building and technical assistance so that efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism are not only effective, but also respect human rights and are transparent and accountable." She said UN bodies have an important role to play in this effort.

"The growth in counter-terrorism institutions, frameworks and programming must be matched by meticulous attention to human rights and rule of law, and the implementation of appropriate monitoring and oversight strategies," Ní Aoláin said. "Capacity-building and technical assistance that are compliant with human rights and the rule of law can actually help prevent the conditions conducive to the emergence of sustained violence in society."


Ms. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism*, *took up her functions on 1 August 2017. She is concurrently Regents Professor and Robina Professor of Law, Public Policy and Society at the University of Minnesota Law School and Professor of Law at the Queens University, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please Ms. Michelle Erazo (* /+41 22 917 9449).*

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