Misuse of terrorism laws during conflict creates ‘unmitigated calamity’: UN expert

Fionnuala Ní Aoláin

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 17 (APP): A UN human rights expert Friday criticized the misuse of terrorism laws by some States, saying that inappropriate use of such measures in the context of complex and violent conflicts sometimes only worsened the situation on the ground.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, told the General Assembly that counter-terrorism operations and measures were frequently being applied in the context of non-international armed conflicts and complex humanitarian settings.

She identified a worrying pattern in which States appeared to ignore or undermine the application of humanitarian principles and rules, because counter-terrorism “offers a more open-ended, under-regulated and opaque set of tools” to manage complex problems.

“The result often is an unmitigated calamity for civilian populations who are squeezed by broadly framed terrorism laws and practices with little or no recourse when misuse occurs,” Ní Aoláin said.

The UN expert’s report tracks the essential relationship between protecting the human rights of the most vulnerable, including the elderly and children in complex and fragile settings, enforcing basic humanitarian norms including the provision of humanitarian assistance.

“I am profoundly troubled by the failure to apply humanitarian exemptions for activities that are humanitarian and impartial in nature,” she said.

“Such short-sighted tactics of withholding or criminalizing humanitarian assistance only prolongs conflicts, alienates those who are needed to ultimately resolve such conflicts, and hurts the most marginal in society.”

Ní Aoláin called on States to review existing sanctions systems to ensure they are rule of law-compliant and provide “meaningful opportunity to challenge, review and end sanctions practices for affected individuals and their families”.

The UN expert applauded the work of impartial humanitarian actors, who work in extreme conditions and under significant stress to ensure and protect the vulnerable.

The challenge now for States is to acknowledge and protect these actors effectively, she added.

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