"I firmly believe that terrorism must be confronted in a manner that respects human rights law. Insisting on a human rights-based approach and a rule of law approach to countering terrorism is imperative. Over the long term, a commitment to uphold respect for human rights and the rule of law will be one of the keys to success in countering terrorism - not an impediment blocking our way."
-Former High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour Distinguished members of the Human Rights Council, dear stakeholder representatives, Counter-terrorism policies led to violations of human rights way before 2001. However, the subject of the violation of human rights in connection with countering terrorism has attracted more interest since the establishment of counter-terrorism policies in so many new countries which came along with the terrorist attacks on 11th September 2001. Already seven years ago the Security Council stated that states must ensure that any measure taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, and should adopt such measures in accordance with international law, in particular international human rights, refugee, and humanitarian law. "It is a good thing" is the answer you would get if you ask random people about countering-terrorism but everybody following the media - even if just sparely - came across Guantánamo, Secret Detention, Waterboarding and many more keywords in this topic area. This guide will give you a rough overview topic two; essential to your proper preparation as a delegate is nevertheless your own research. Short introductions should normally not name too much references, however I decided to mention all the important resolutions and reports because it is crucial to have the same base in order to have a constructive discussion on the topic.
Promotion and protection of Human Rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism - Quo Vadis? First of all the question about a proper definition of what terrorism is has to be asked since there remains no definitive consensus. National states such as India, Syria, United Kingdom and the United States included definitions of terrorism in their national law. The United Nations General Assembly in its non-binding United Nations Declaration to supplement the 1994 Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism, also tried to define what terrorist activities are. In addition the Security Council condemned terrorist acts as: "Criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act, which constitute offenses within the scope of and as defined in the international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism, are under no circumstances justifiable by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature."
Historical Overview / Recent Development The most important resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism yet is A/HRC/7/7 (2008) which emphasizes the obligation of States to respect that certain rights are non-derogable in any circumstances. Furthermore a universal periodic review on the issue was established in 2006 which covers 48 States each year and by the beginning of 2012 will have covered all Member States. The HRC recognized this review as a tool for the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism in A/HRC/10/15 (2009). A/RES/60/288 (2006) defined the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and a plan of action to support the practical work of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force which was established in July 2005. This strategy was reaffirmed by all member states of the General Assembly who agreed on a comprehensive response towards terrorism including the recognition that the protection of human rights and the respect for the rule of law are not conflicting goals with effective counter-terrorism. Led by the OHCHR the Task Force created the Working Group on Protecting Human Rights while Countering Terrorism whose members among others include the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, the Office of Legal Affairs, the World Bank, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. This working group organizes events such as expert seminars in order to analyze the effects of terrorism and counter-terrorism on cultural, economic and social rights. It is also crucial to mention the Counter-Terrorism Committee which successfully implemented human rights concerns into its work based on Security Council resolutions S/RES/1624 (2005) and S/RES/1373 (2001). When talking about Human Rights challenges in the context of counter-terrorism the focus is always on one of the following subjects: The right to life; Transfer of individuals suspected of terrorist activity; Profiling and the principle of non-discrimination; The principle of legality and the definition of terrorism; Freedom of association; Economic, social and cultural rights; Challenges to the absolute prohibition against torture; Liberty and the security of the person; Due process and the right to fair trial; Freedom of expression and the prohibition of incitement to terrorism; Surveillance, data protection and the right to privacy. "Compliance with international human rights standards is essential where any counter-terrorism measure involves the deprivation of an individual's liberty" as stated in paragraph 32 of the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. Even and especially in cases of public emergency it is of upmost importance to uphold the universal and fundamental human rights. National borders should not be obstacles to fulfillment of human rights obligation; most efforts to successfully combat terrorism are based on international cooperation and any failure to respect HR decreases their effectiveness.
Recommendations for your preparation Does your country have a specific counter-terrorism strategy or even a law concerning CT and what does look like? Many states have provisory CT laws in force nowadays and a lot of them do not comply with Human Rights obligations. Are there any reported cases of HR violations in your country and how did your government react? - This might be very important to know; if for example secret detention exists in your country you might not want to talk about it but if some other country accuses you of having it, it is crucial that you are at least aware of the facts. Based on the specific background of your country, what are the most important HR violations to discuss? - Fundamental Human Rights such as equal protection under the rule of law or the freedom of speech are always important to discuss and guarantee, but perhaps your country faces a special situation and it is important to table that topic to the members or the HRC. What contracts did your country sign regarding the issue and which workgroups, committees or task forces does it support or participate in? - Some states might have obligations due to the fact that they participate in international operating institutions to fight Human Rights violations. What are your proposed solutions or constructive suggestions to improve the current situation? - Examples might include the creation of new workgroups and task-forces or measures of implementing fundamental Human Rights into national laws on fighting terrorism. Writing a position paper which covers the main aspects of your preparation, a conclusion and suggestions on the issue to be discussed is strongly encouraged; however, it is not mandatory for this conference.
Must Reads Report of the Secretary-General A/64/186 (2009) on the Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. This report of the Secretary General is an excellent preparatory document to participate in a substantiated discussion on the issue. It describes recent development and how the different existing UN bodies are involved in the process of promotion and protection of Human Rights. The stated conclusions of that report can be used as a common base for negotiations in the HRC sessions at HamMUN 2010. UNHCHR Fact Sheet No. 32 (2008) on Human Rights, Terrorism and Counter-terrorism. This official UNHCHR fact sheet gives detailed information about everything related to the topic of Human Rights and terrorism; beginning with the definitions on terrorism and Human Rights it gives perfect background knowledge on the impact of CT on HR. The specific Human Rights Challenges earlier mentioned in this preparation guide are separately described in the third and last part of this document. For your proper preparation it is advisable to take a closer look at this report.
Useful sources concerning research The United Nation Documents Archive http://www.un.org/en/documents/index.shtml Official UN Press Releases on any topic can be found here http://www.un.org/en/unpress/index.asp The Universal Declaration of Human Rights http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html Access to the different bodies under the UNHCHR http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/ Universal Human Rights Index of United Nations Documents http://www.universalhumanrightsindex.org/hrsearch/displayAdvancedSearch.do?lang=en