UN independent expert calls for greater protection of rights of terrorism victims

22 June 2012

Urging Governments to provide greater collective protection of the rights of victims of terrorism, an independent United Nations human rights expert today called for the adoption of a single international legal framework setting out the rights of such victims and the corresponding obligations on States.

“Terrorism has a very real and direct impact on human rights, with devastating consequences for the right to life, liberty and physical integrity of victims and their families,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, Ben Emmerson, during the presentation of his annual report to the UN Human Rights Council.

“It is a striking fact that despite the proliferation of international instruments dealing with counter-terrorism co-operation, there is none that directly addresses the rights of the victims – the victims want that put right,” he added.

The Special Rapporteur stressed that the victims’ call is “not for more torture, nor for more human rights abuse in countering terrorism,” and warned that some States have been willing to abandon core human rights values on the pretext of defending them.

“In the end, the politicians and officials responsible for human rights abuse in counter-terrorism strategies will always seek to justify what they do on the grounds that they are protecting the next generation of victims,” Mr. Emmerson said.

“The victims’ call is not for more torture, nor for more human rights abuse, in countering terrorism,” he said. “Their call is for the recognition of their human rights through adoption of a single normative framework which acknowledges their suffering, protects them from further abuse, and provides adequate support and reparation.”

In regard to an international legal framework, Mr. Emmerson said his proposed ‘Framework Principles’ set out a series of rights that are already recognised by regional human rights bodies concerning States’ obligations to take reasonable care to prevent acts of terrorism from occurring; to conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigations, with a view to securing accountability and learning lessons for the future. “They are not just about compensation,” he noted.

The Principles also call on States to ensure that victims of terrorism have an adequate opportunity to participate in the fair and public administration of criminal justice; to ensure that the privacy and physical integrity of the survivors and families are protected; and to guarantee their rights to form representative organisations.

“Whilst these rights have been recognised at the regional level, they have not so far been fully protected on the international plane,” he said. “That is why I am recommending the adoption of a specific international instrument, negotiated under the auspices of the UN.”

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not United Nations staff, nor are they paid for their work.


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