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Security legislation can perpetuate emergencies, UN human rights envoy says

Security legislation can perpetuate emergencies, UN human rights envoy says

Hina Jilani
Security legislation and other departures from the normal legal regime are perpetuating emergencies by isolating those people best placed to end the emergencies, the United Nations envoy charged with protecting human rights defenders said today.

Hina Jilani, the Special Representative of Secretary General Kofi Annan for Human Rights Defenders, presented her report to the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee earlier this week.

In that report, she said security legislation and emergencies "are used as a smokescreen to allow dereliction from human rights obligations and persecution of defenders. These acts harm the genuine struggle to prevent and end terrorism."

She told a press briefing today that two related issues were at work: the impact of security and counter-terrorist legislation on human rights defenders and the roles and situations of the rights defenders in declared or undeclared emergencies.

Ms. Jilani said she was particularly concerned that human rights defenders, standing on the defensive front lines of the right to fair trials and due process, were being marginalized because the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights was not being properly implemented.

Articles 1 and 2 of the Declaration say that "all human beings are born equal in dignity and rights" and are entitled to the rights and freedoms listed in the Declaration. Articles 3 to 21 set out the civil and political rights of all people.

Lawyers, journalists, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and political activists were among the people being unfairly targeted in some countries for speaking out against old and new security measures that were being "aggressively applied," she said.

The human rights roles and work protected by the Human Rights Declaration were being de-legitimized, Ms. Jilani said.

Meanwhile, many States were taking measures in which "the scope of security legislation far exceeded the legitimate objective of strengthening security," she said.