Asylum seekers need more protection in face of counter-terrorism measures - UN expert

29 October 2007

Counter-terrorism measures in many parts of the globe disproportionately impact asylum-seekers, refugees and immigrants, a United Nations independent human rights expert said in New York today.

"Asylum-seekers with a well-founded fear of persecution may be the largest similarly situated group of persons in the world who are seriously and adversely affected by the post-2001 wave of new counter-terrorism measures," Martin Sheinin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, told the General Assembly committee dealing with social, humanitarian and cultural issues, known as the Third Committee.

Mr. Sheinin briefed the Committee on his latest report, which highlights the issues of pre-entry interception and screening measures; detention of asylum-seekers; exclusion from refugee or other protection status; the repatriation or resettlement of people detained for terrorism-related reasons; and bolstering international responsibility for protection.

"Being able to access other countries to seek protection is key to a refugee's life and security, and a cornerstone of international protection," the Rapporteur said.

He also emphasized the issue of diplomatic assurances involving terrorism suspects being protected against torture.

"Diplomatic assurances sought from a receiving State to the effect that a person will not be subjected to torture, or any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment can never absolve the duty of the sending State to assess individually the existence of a 'real risk' of such treatment," Mr. Sheinin noted.

That obligation to conduct individual assessments also pertains to the risk of persecution or of capital punishment, he said.

Regarding the release, repatriation and resettlement of detainees held for terrorism-related reasons worldwide, the Rapporteur said that he is "encouraged by positive signals that the Government of the United States plans to close down one of the most long-standing places of detention of terrorism suspects, the military detention facility at Guantánamo Bay."

He urged the US to shut down the centre "without delay" to allow for detainees to be tried for alleged crimes or released.

Additionally, Mr. Sheinin called for all States to prepare to receive for resettlement those being held at Guantánamo Bay for whom no criminal charges have been initiated.

He also recommended that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) take part in resettling Guantánamo detainees who claim to be in need of international protection after assessing each individual detainee's cases, and that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights utilize her good offices to facilitate resettlement in cases falling outside the scope of the Refugee Convention.

 

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