UN Special Investigator Finds Its Counterterrorism Framework Chills Humanitarian Aid

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Date: 
November 30, 2010

On Oct. 26, 2010, an independent investigator hired by the United Nations said the UN Security Council’s counterterrorism framework is having a “chilling effect” on humanitarian aid, the charities that provide it, and is undermining the protection of human rights around the world. A report written by Martin Scheinin, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, said two UN resolutions that sanction terrorist organizations have exceeded their original scope and violate basic human rights. Going forward, he called on using the UN Global Counter-terrorism Strategy as a model for future reforms. 

Scheinin said the obligations in countering terrorism required by Security Council Resolution 1373 (1373) “amount to a quasi-legislative measure that is unlimited in time and space.” Passed a week after 9/11, it calls on member states to alter national security laws to address “terrorism,” but does not define the term. In the report, Scheinin wrote, "Resolution 1373 goes beyond the powers conferred upon the Security Council and continues to pose risks to the protection of a number of international human rights standards.”

Scheinin also criticized the scope of Security Council Resolution 1267 (1267). Originally, 1267 outlined the sanctions for al-Qaida and the Afghani Taliban, but subsequently expanded into an open-ended system of sanctions not specific to any groups. When it was first passed, Scheinin supported 1267 calling it “a form of smart sanctions against a defined group of persons, and limited in time and space.” But now, Scheinin contends, the resolution is beyond the intended scope with over 400 designated organizations.

 

The Special Rapporteur observed that the UN Global Counter-terrorism Strategy adopted by the General Assembly in 2006 provides a solid basis for the reforms he is proposing as it contains respect for human rights and the rule of law as one of its pillars. Scheinin called on the Security Council to replace Resolutions 1373 and 1267 with a single resolution to organize the counter-terrorism measures under one framework that sanctions terrorists and protects human rights. He emphasized that counter-terrorism measures and the protection of human rights are not contradictory. “The defense of human rights renders counter-terrorism efforts by States even more effective. Violations of human rights by States are only conducive to providing breading grounds for more terrorism,” he said.

The Special Rapporteur was also critical of the powers held by the UN Ombudsperson who is charged with reviewing the listing procedures for listed terrorists. Kimberly Prost, a Canadian judge, was selected as the first Ombudsperson in June 2010. According to Scheinin, Prost does not have the power necessary to challenge Security Council decisions to blacklist and sanction people for suspected ties to al-Qaida and the Taliban. "The Ombudsperson is not even mandated to make recommendations to the Committee, and de-listing decisions are still taken confidentially," he said.

The Ombudsperson's position was created by Security Council Resolution 1904 to provide a process for people who believe they have been unfairly included on the UN’s sanctioned terrorist list to seek de-listing. “It is essential that listed individuals and entities have access to domestic courts to challenge any measure implementing the sanctions that are the result of political decisions taken by diplomats,” Scheinin said.