Terrorism and the Growing Violation of Human Rights

February 5, 2015 OPINION/NEWS




Anant Mishra

“We should all be clear that there is no trade off between effective action against terrorism and the protection of human rights. On the contrary, I believe that in the long term we shall find that human rights, along with democracy and social justice, are one of the best prophylactics against terrorism”  –  Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.



The declaration of United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHCR) states that, “Human rights are universal values and legal guarantees that protect individuals and groups against actions and omissions primarily by State agents that interfere with fundamental freedoms, entitlements and human dignity.” This is clearly visible in numerous international treaties and thus many rights especially freedom of expression have been included in the Customary International Law. As written in the Article 39 of the United Nations Charter, the United Nations Security Council is the only organization appointed to address and resolve the issue of Human rights. However, the Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC) must support the Security Council with timely reports of legal counter terrorism measures within the member nations.

As per the understanding of UNHCR, terrorism is defined as “Acts of violence against civilians in the pursuit of political or ideological aims.” Legally there is no correct definition. However the United Nations along with many international communities have passed international Conventions, Protocols and Resolutions which categorise the terrorism in numerous forms and term it “illegal”. Moreover the General Assembly followed by many international peace keeping organizations are working on new provisions along with previous conventions, resolutions and protocols, but it has not yet been implemented.

Putting the legal definition aside, we will agree with the fact that “terrorism” is the primary cause of human rights violations. It is the duty of member nations to protect their citizens from human rights abuse and violent acts by terrorists. However, some counter terrorist measures are themselves considered as violations of human rights. These measures include: the long term detention of civilians, torture, illegal restriction of movement and other methods such as illegal abduction and long term custody, depriving the individual from ‘‘life, liberty and physical integrity.’’ Nations such as Australia, Belarus, China, Egypt, Eritrea, India, Israel, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Macedonia, Malaysia, Russia, Syria, United States, Uzbekistan, and Zimbabwe were responsible for conducting human rights violations, as per the report of Human Rights Watch. Thus, nations should include a human rights factor in their counter terrorist measures to ensure that human rights are valued every time.

Right after the incident of September 11, 2001, the United Nations Security Council passed resolution R1373, to equip the member nations to fight terrorism. Numerous resolutions, protocols and after action reports have showed us that the ongoing “War on Terror” is terrifying. However the importance to include human rights law within counter terrorism tactics is explained many times through resolutions, reports, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and United Nations bodies, although it seems baseless as human rights violations are continuously increasing. Thus there is absolute urgency to monitor human rights violations especially in counter terrorism tactics performed by member nations.


Involvement of the UN

In June 1993, Resolution 2002/24 was passed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Terrorism with the assistance of the Human Rights Sub Commission, which stated that “Terrorism is indeed aimed at the destruction of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democracy and that it could never be justified, including promoting and protecting human rights.” The committee also stated that counter terrorism tactics should be performed “in strict conformity with international law, including international human rights law and humanitarian law standards.”

The most important resolution that deals with the violation of human rights and terrorism is the Security Council Resolution 1624, which “deals with incitement, stresses that States must ensure that any measures they take to implement the resolution comply with all of their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights law, refugee law, and humanitarian law.” However not much has been done after the resolution was passed but the CTC should convene their reports to the Security Council followed by a close watch on member nations specially the ones gripped in conflict.

To make the CTC more functional and capable in its implementation, resolutions with respect to Human Rights concerns were passed. The CTC have now been given special powers to liaise with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNCHR). In two specific reports submitted to the Security Council individually (S/2005/800 and S/2006/989), the committee decided to “take account of relevant human rights obligations in the course of all its activities” as it wanted to improve its capacity with challenges in the world.





Anant Mishra

Anant Mishra is a former Youth Representative to United Nations. He is an Associate Member of Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis, New Delhi specializing in counter terrorist operations and foreign policies in Africa and Middle East.


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