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[Statement] Counter-terrorism: the EU and its Member States must respect and protect human rights and the rule of law

March 2016

Brussels, 1st March 2016. The 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere - and the assertion by States that there is an elevated terrorist threat in the European Union (EU) - have led to a new set of counter-terrorism measures at both EU and national levels. These terrorist attacks are heinous criminal acts which undermine human rights. International human rights law itself requires that states must take appropriate measures to prevent and respond to acts of terrorism, in order to ensure the security and safety of the people in their territories. The undersigned organisations recall that counter-terrorism measures must always comply with the rule of law and human rights obligations under European Union and international law. Effective counter-terrorism measures and the protection of human rights are not conflicting but are aimed at overlapping, complementary and mutually reinforcing goals. In practice, widespread violations of human rights while countering terrorism have proven to be counterproductive.

The undersigned organisations acknowledge that states are facing substantial threats to the security of their populations that require effective action. However, the extent of restrictions on human rights that result or could result from adopted or contemplated security measures is significant. Transparency, information and meaningful participation of civil society are crucial to avoid excessive or other arbitrary restrictions on human rights as a result of counterterrorism laws and policies.

An overarching concern is the fast-track procedures used by EU institutions and EU Member States authorities to adopt counter-terrorism measures, for instance in the Draft Directive on Combating Terrorism. This reduces the space for meaningful civil society participation and transparency, foreseen in EU Stakeholder Consultation Guidelines, and thus hinders accountability, which is contrary to Article 11 of the Treaty of the European Union. Adoption of emergency measures also does not allow for proper or, indeed, any impact assessments, as foreseen by the EU Better Regulation Guidelines and Better Regulation tool 24. The shrinking space for civil society is a concerning reality not only outside the EU, but also within its own borders.

The undersigned organisations urge the EU and Member States to respect, protect and fulfil human rights and the rule of law.

See the whole statement.

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