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UN rights chief ‘alarmed’ at erosion of rights for terror suspects

UN rights chief ‘alarmed’ at erosion of rights for terror suspects

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern about the treatment of people suspected of committing terrorist acts, and called for reform of legal procedures used in such cases.

“There are concerns regarding the transfer of suspects without due process, and the use of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, which are unacceptable practices,” Louise Arbour said in a statement read on her behalf today by an official to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva.

“I am alarmed by the continuing erosion of the right to fair trial which occurs when suspects of terrorist acts are denied the right to obtain a judicial review of their case,” she added.

Ms. Arbour, who was commenting on her report, “The protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism,” which as been submitted to the HRC, also said there was a need to establish specific and effective legislation to avoid vague or overly broad definitions of terrorism.

“We know that such definitions have led to inappropriate restrictions of the legitimate exercise of rights, such as the rights of association, expression and assembly,” she said, while also calling for intelligence-gathering on terrorism to be regulated by law and monitored as much as possible by independent agencies.

Commenting on another UN report, on the “Question of the death penalty,” Ms. Arbour said that the number of countries that have a “completely abolitionist” policy toward the death penalty has increased from 85 to 93 since 2005.

She also noted that a General Assembly resolution in December 2007 calls on “all States that still maintain the death penalty… to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.”

The High Commissioner also noted that one of the most important recent developments following the Secretary General’s report on “Fundamental standards of humanity” has been the adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which is now open for signature, ratification and accession.

Ms. Arbour called on States to ratify the treaty.