Two United Nations human rights experts welcomed a decision by the United States to dismantle a national registry program targeting people visiting from countries that are home to active terrorist groups, a program that the experts labelled “discriminatory and ineffective.”
The program, the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), applied to citizens from 25 countries in the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa. It led to both racial and religious profiling.
“Effective counterterrorism strategies and legislation should not be based on preconceptions or misunderstandings about the groups that are the most susceptible to radicalization or violent extremism,” announced the UN Special Rapporteurs on, respectively, racism and xenophobia, Mutuma Ruteere, and freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed.
Instead, strategies should be based on and developed in accordance with evidence in order to ensure a proper understanding, they said. An evidence-based approach, they emphasized, more effectively targets at-risk communities and also ensures “that entire communities and ethnic or religious groups are not stigmatized or discriminated against.”
“Counter-terrorism measures must not discriminate against non-citizens, in purpose or effect, on the grounds of race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin,” emphasized Mr. Ruteere.
“I remain hopeful that the new US administration can learn from the shortcomings of the NSEERS and adopt a non-discriminatory approach to counter-terrorism policies.”
Under the policy, not a single terrorism prosecution has resulted out of the 80,000 Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians who have registered. While deportation proceedings commenced for some 14,000 people, not a single one has been found to have any links with terrorist or otherwise violent activities.
“Discrimination between human beings on the grounds of religion or belief constitutes an affront to human dignity and a disavowal of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations,” declared Mr. Shaheed.
“This kind of discrimination is a violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and described in detail in the International Covenants on Human Rights,” he added.
Special Rapporteurs are part of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.