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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Special Report by WFUNA: Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism

On Monday 8 March, the 13th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council heard a report from the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. The report focused on the Erosion of the Right to Privacy through measures by States claimed to be motivated by security and countering terrorism, particularly in relation to a lack of legal safeguards for surveillance and security activities that can severely impede on freedom of movement, of association and of expression.

The Special Rapporteur also stressed the need to integrate the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms into legislation relating to counter terrorism and not to allow for rights and freedoms to be sidelined by other laws. He also highlighted the ineffective, unnecessary and disproportionate intrusion of full-body scanners at airports, referring to the discriminatory nature of ethnic profiling. With regards to this, he further stated that the hasty decision to implement them was a political response so as to seem active in their (States) response to acts of terrorism.

Continuing on the topic  of counter-terrorism technologies, specifically in regard to the detection of explosives, he expressed concern about the current 'bad habit' of "going after the bad guy" rather than looking for or using existing technological solutions that are more effective and less intrusive on fundamental rights. He suggested that technologies taking privacy rights into consideration would be more successful and that States should encourage this. The special rapporteur also mentioned his desire to establish a process that would build on existing data protection and a future declaration on global information protection. Lastly, he reported on detention on the basic terrorism concerns and his visits to Egypt and Tunisia.

In response to his report, Egypt reiterated their collaboration with the special rapporteur in its efforts to draft a counter-terrorism law that would replace State-of-Emergency powers in place since the assassination of the Egyptian president in 1981. The special rapporteur, however, expressed his disappointment in not being allowed to carry out interviews as per his mandate and the nature of the collaboration in regards to the drafting of the new law. Tunisia responded positively to the report and highlighted the improvement in measures to promote and protect rights in countering terrorism. Also of note was the statement made by the Mexican delegation, in which they expressed their view that the special rapporteur had acted outside of his mandate.


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