Terrorism threatens the territorial integrity and security of States, constitutes a grave violation of the purpose and principles
of the United Nations, is a threat to international peace and security, and must be suppressed as an essential element for the maintenance of international peace and security.
Major Advances in International Human Rights Laws (IHRL) norms have started in the last few days which indicated that Sudan is taking some major steps to move forward in the list of countries within the international laws frameworks.
The statements made last Monday by the State Minister in the Ministry of Justice and some of the National Assembly prominent members indicate that Sudan is on the path to sign three of the most important human rights convections.
These are the; CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women), CAT (Convention against Torture) and the Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism.
It is true as some prominent members of the National Assembly have said that Sudan have rather taken a very long time to sign these three important international human rights instruments and frameworks.
While there is no much dispute or controversy on the Convention against Terrorism, the other two (CEDAW and CAT) are expected to be opposed by some ultra conservative circles. But in reality these reservations against these two agreements on religious grounds have no justification because many Islamic countries in the Arab world and beyond including Saudi Arabia have signed these conventions. Still this is a good opportunity for the civil society organizations specially women groups to start mobilizing all the social forces to guarantee a speedy passage of these conventions and in particular CEDAW.
The skeptical as usual are already saying that the signing of these conventions will not make any difference because the government will not implement them.
But this is a naïve attitude because by signing them the government is making a commitment to the international community and same time all these conversions have follow up mechanisms. So, let us cross the river when we reach the bridge.
Same time, this step should not make activists became reluctant but must start the next step of looking in the books for those conversions that have not been signed but have received little attention up to now and there a lot of them.
We must all come to the understanding that these steps are for the benefit of all parties including the government because governments that respect international human rights norms are considered as legible in today world to have a deserved seat in the table of nations.
Here are some of the main features of these three international conventions.
Terrorism and human rights
Terrorism threatens the territorial integrity and security of States, constitutes a grave violation of the purpose and principles of the United Nations, is a threat to international peace and security, and must be suppressed as an essential element for the maintenance of international peace and security.
International and regional human rights law makes clear that States have both a right and a duty to protect individuals under their jurisdiction from terrorist attacks. This stems from the general duty of States to protect
individuals under their jurisdiction against interference in the enjoyment of human rights. More specifically, this duty is recognized as part of States’ obligations to ensure respect for the right to life and the right to security.
The right to life, which is protected under international and regional human rights treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has been described as “the supreme right” 8 because without its effective guarantee, all other human rights would be without meaning.
As such, there is an obligation on the part of the State to protect the right to life of every person within its territory10 and no derogation from this right is permitted, even in times of public emergency. The protection of the right to life includes an obligation on States to take all appropriate and
necessary steps to safeguard the lives of those within their jurisdiction.
As part of this obligation, States must put in place effective criminal justice and law enforcement systems, such as measures to deter the commission of offences and investigate violations where they occur; ensure that those suspected of criminal acts are prosecuted; provide
victims with effective remedies; and take other necessary steps to prevent a recurrence of violations. In addition, international and regional human rights law has recognized that, in specific circumstances, States have a positive obligation to take preventive operational measures to protect an individual or individuals whose life is known or suspected to be at risk from the criminal acts of another individual, which certainly includes terrorists. Also important to highlight is the obligation on States to ensure
the personal security of individuals under their jurisdiction where a threat is known or suspected to exist. This, of course, includes terrorist threats.
In order to fulfill their obligations under human rights law to protect the life and security of individuals under their jurisdiction, States have a right and a duty to take effective counter-terrorism measures, to prevent and deter future terrorist attacks and to prosecute those that are responsible
for carrying out such acts. At the same time, the countering of terrorism poses grave challenges to the protection and promotion of human rights.
As part of States’ duty to protect individuals within their jurisdiction, all measures taken to combat terrorism must themselves also comply with States’ obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.
Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy
The United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy was adopted by the General Assembly (GA) on September 8, 2006 (General Assembly Resolution 60/288). This event marked the first time member states agreed to a comprehensive, global, strategic framework on counterterrorism since the issue came before the League of Nations in 1934. The strategy aims to bring all the counterterrorism activities of the United Nations system into a common framework, putting special emphasis on the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) and the Secretariat’s Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF).
The Role of a Human Rights-Based Approach
There is a widespread feeling inside and outside of UN circles that global counterterrorism initiatives are primarily of importance to the “Northern” states while, in fact, the majority of deaths from terrorism are South-South
rather than South-North in nature. Seen in this light, effective and fair counterterrorism efforts actually align and integrate with the goals of sustainable development and human rights. This alignment and integration is reflected
in the United Nations’ strategy which takes a holistic approach to addressing the terrorist threat.
However, the absence of a clear definition of terrorism is an impediment to the development of uniform laws necessary for implementation across the international system. Participants observed that a binding definition of
terrorism would help shape law enforcement efforts, intelligence roles, and the establishment of “universal rules of engagement.” A clear definition would also standardize the measurement of results for UN and donor programs. Therefore, a successful global framework would require codifying what constitutes a terrorist act and developing instruments for enforcement.
Human rights norms and conventions repeatedly surfaced in discussions as being essential to the global definition of a terrorist act. The results of terrorism are clear human rights violations, every bit as reprehensible as the more traditionally recognized violations by governmental authorities. Thus the common ground for global action on terrorism is not any one terrorist group’s agenda and ideology, but rather the violation of the victims’ human rights.
Accordingly, respect for fundamental freedoms and the rule of law are essential tools in countering terrorism, and should not be viewed as privileges to be sacrificed in times of high pressure. Such measures not only increase the legitimacy of counterterror efforts in civil society, but following proper police procedures also increases the reliability and hence the effectiveness of any intelligence gathered. The training of judicial and law enforcement branches throughout the world was viewed by participants as a potentially significant development goal, further illustrating the consensus among participants that development and counterterrorism are intimately linked.
In sum: existing human rights protocols should be incorporated into counterterrorism training on a consistent and universal basis. But to accomplish this, the counterterrorism and human rights communities need to recognize and promote the inherent synergies between their two frameworks. The United Nations could help the two communities create a joint communication program that presents their common ground and objectives—something toward which both the UN Security Council’s CTED and the UN Secretariat’s CTITF might be able to act in a mediating or coordinating function. Participants recommended the further integration of human rights representatives with technical assistance teams and strategic planning committees of the United Nations and member state governments.
UN initiatives should also create a platform for victims’ voices via a forum for a real dialogue with governments and international leadership. This global forum, perhaps starting with a major public conference, should facilitate what one UN participant deemed three “axes of communication:
victims to victims; victims to governments; and government to government.”
These activities would be a powerful means of countering terrorist recruitment and incitement activities. A human face should be put on the ability of terrorist activities to underscore mankind’s vulnerability in the face of this security threat and to show the lives that terrorism destroys. Testimonies of survivors or victims’ families could be distributed via the Internet and other media to create a public image narrative.
Building State Capacities:
The Role of the United Nations in Coordination and Coherence Law enforcement and intelligence communities within and across states are collaborating to address issues such as the terrorist use of chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) materials; misuse of the Internet for terrorist purposes; improvement of border security; the detection and confiscation of forged travel documents; and the protection of the most vulnerable targets.
Many of these training and assistance programs will naturally be bilateral in nature and based on the national initiatives of wealthier states. However, the legitimacy and effectiveness of the current process is undermined by donor incoherence among Northern states, as well as a preference for what one participant called “pet projects” of donors. Follow-up, monitoring, and evaluation of results have thus far been largely haphazard. Too often, overlapping service providers create wasteful redundancies in the training process.
Continuity of training and structured follow-up are two critical components of truly durable state capacity-building. In this effort, the United Nations could have a role in helping Northern donor states match their intentions and goals with realities on the ground in specific localities. Several participants suggested that the United Nations is best positioned to make sure that “the right meeting is held at the right time, with just the right group of 15-20 people around a table” to achieve the next step—whether the participants come from domestic civil society groups, the private sector, transnational NGOs, state governments, regional IGOs such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) or the Organization of American States (OAS), or the multitude of UN agencies working on overlapping issue areas.
Toward this end, clearer structural and procedural guidelines would create a more synergistic and positive-sum relationship between the CTED and the CTITF, as well as between the Security Council (SC) and the GA. Thus far, the
focus of the CTED has been fairly narrow, equipping member states to incorporate acceptable international legal norms and addressing money laundering and terrorist financing issues. Over the next year, prior to the 2008 assessment of progress made on strategy implementation, SC members need to do more to review and clarify the role of the CTED and its relationship to the CTITF.
Many participants contended that the CTITF can and should play a greater role as a bridge-builder between the GA and SC, more effectively synergizing the activities of different stakeholders and ensuring standardized training, monitoring, and evaluation of efforts across countries. Acquiring additional funding and personnel for the CTITF is a significant step that the UN community can take to bolster these efforts. The CTITF is currently an underfunded and understaffed committee that must borrow all but one intern of its 24-person staff from other mandates and agencies. Participants also encouraged member states and officials to discuss funding and resource issues with the United Nations’ Administrative and Budgetary Fifth Committee, and to set up an in-progress review for member states at the fall 2007 meeting of the GA.
The Challenges Presented by Modern Media and the Internet
Many participants complained about the role of the media i n responding to terrorist incidents in their home countries. Some argued that the media, by repeatedly showing graphic images of destruction, can actually publicize the terrorists’ cause; add to societal perceptions of the terrorists’ “success”; and exaggerate the importance and magnitude of the acts, ultimately spreading precisely the kind of fear and insecurity among the public that the terrorists want to create.