By Rute Belachew / GICJ

On the 7th of October, during the 51st session of the Human Rights Council, 41 resolutions and decisions were adopted. These resolutions ranged from the human rights situation in the Russian Federation to extending mandates on Afghanistan and the right to health. Alongside this, the council also adopted a resolution on terrorism and human rights.

Brought forward by Mexico and Egypt, the latter resolution aims to provide a single voice on the topic. The delegate of Mexico, Ms. Francisca E. Méndez Escobar began by presenting Draft Resolution A/HRC/51/L.42 on terrorism and human rights.

The resolution reaffirms that states must guarantee that any decision made to combat terrorism and violent extremism must comply with international law, specifically international human rights law, international refugee law, and international humanitarian law. Furthermore, states must reaffirm their unequivocal condemnation of all acts and practices of terrorism and violent extremism, wherever and by whomsoever committed, regardless of motivation, as unjustifiable in accordance with applicable international law, as well as financial, material, or political support for terrorism. States must also recognise the negative impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the destruction of livelihoods and entire economies. The resolution also recognises that the only effective counter-terrorism strategy is one that fully respects human rights. While combating this issue, it is critical to emphasise that terrorism and violent extremism cannot and should not be affiliated with any faith, nationality, or ethnic group. Tolerance, inclusion, as well as the enhancement of interreligious and intercultural understanding and respect among people, on aregional and global level, are among the most important aspects in promoting cooperation and combating terrorism. The resolution reaffirms states’ commitment to the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and its four pillars, as adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 60/288 of 8 September 2006, while recalling the seventh biennial review of the Strategy, as adopted in General Assembly resolution 75/291 of 30 June 2021. Lastly, it welcomes the work of the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in Counter-Terrorism in addressing the fundamental freedoms of terrorist victims as well as alleged infringements of human rights in counter-terrorism.

This text was presented with the hope of making significant progress towards creating stronger international norms in this area. The delegation discussed the core tenets of the resolution, with the expectation that this draft will motivate nations to meet their commitments in the field of international human rights protection for all individuals. The document stresses the need to promote and protect free expression and opinion, prohibitions on torture, the concept of nonrefoulment and the right to privacy, due process, child protection in the context of counter-terrorism, and the rights of victims.

This statement was followed by the delegate of Egypt, Mr. Ahmed Ihab Abdelahad Gamaleldin. Mr. Gamaleldin began by acknowledging that the draft resolution is the outcome of long and fruitful core group consultations. Their primary objective is for the Human Rights Council to continue speaking with a unified voice on such a contentious and difficult matter. He expressed gratitude to Mexico's ambassador and her team, as well as other delegations and civil society for their productive involvement through informal dialogues and several bilateral sessions. Terrorism, he warned, is a significant threat to the enjoyment of all human rights, including the right to life. Using Africa as an example, he said that terrorist attacks had struck all five subregions, killing over 8,000 people in the previous nine months.

He advised authorities to pay attention to early indicators and warnings as acts inspired by racism, xenophobia, or other types of intolerance have grown substantially across the world.  As a result of the COVID-19 epidemic and other worldwide difficulties, the terrorist threat, along with persistent political and cultural cleavages, may eventually lead to more violent acts. Furthermore, many difficulties on the human rights front involve reinforcing governments' international law commitments. Through listening to recommendations from all sides while simultaneously attempting to balance its substance and message, he believes the resolution is a comprehensive and well-balanced document that elevates several perspectives. It incorporates substantive elements to critical problems such as terrorist victims, with a special emphasis on women and children. Moreover, new and difficult concerns, such as new technology, privacy, and terrorist patterns are also addressed. Finally, he added that combating terrorism necessitates a comprehensive, multi-stakeholder strategy that ensures human rights protections. He concluded by urging the Human Rights Council to unanimously approve the resolution.

The delegate of the Czech Republic, Mr. Václav Bálek, spoke on behalf of the European Union. He began by noting that the resolution provides a foundation for governments to ensure they meet their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law. He further complimented the core group for inserting revisions such as freedom of opinion and expression, the necessity to protect minors, and the new right to privacy. He also highlighted that the resolution has multiple irrelevant modifications derived from the United Nations' global counter-terrorism policy. He  underscored that the Special Rapporteur's work as the only body in the UN system empowered to report on counter-terrorism from an exclusively human rights viewpoint.

Ms. Seema Pujani, India's representative, thanked Egypt and Mexico and expressed the country’s support for discussing this topic further in the Human Rights Council. Ms. Pujani continued by quoting, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, stating, "terrorism is a threat to humanity”. She asserted that terrorism infringes the fundamental rights of individuals as well as the human rights of their families and society as a whole. Ms. Punjani welcomed the resolution and urged all nations to implement comprehensive support programs for victims of terrorism and their families. These plans must address the immediate short-term and long-term requirements of terrorist survivors and their families in regard to rehabilitation efforts. Ms. Punjani further stated that India has been grappling with cross-border terrorism for decades and has been combating it with unwavering determination. She concluded by inviting the international community to collaborate to combat this threat with a zero-tolerance policy.

China’s delegate, Mr. Dzang Yang, then spoke of the need for counterterrorism to address both the symptoms and the core causes of terrorist activity.  He noted that such work will necessitate collaboration across the international community. China has constructively engaged in the consultation on the draft resolution and appreciates the sponsors' open and candid discussions, as well as all parties' efforts to reach a consensus. Mr. Yang felt that the draft is uneven and does not adequately represent the requirements of developing nations. He went on to say that attention should be devoted to terrorist financing and the use of the internet to disseminate terrorism. According to certain developing countries, the proposed resolution is inadequate. In order to further strengthen the text and gain consensus, China hopes that the sponsors will put the proposal in future drafts and pay heed to the concerns of all parties. This will help to further the global fight to combat terrorism and promote and preserve human rights. 

Ms. Michèle Taylor, the delegate of the United States of America, then praised Mexico and Egypt for their contributions to the facilitation and protection of human rights and basic freedoms in the battle against terrorism. Ms. Taylor joined the resolution's consensus and stressed the need to build collaborative approaches to human rights. Concerning the newly added language in this resolution, she stated that the new legislative framework regulating counterterrorism actions in the United States would be defined by the specific situation in which the activity occurs. Moreover, states' activities must remain consistent with applicable international obligations, such as the right to privacy and the right not to be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference in one's private life, as mentioned in Article 17 of the ICCPR. Ms. Taylor went on to express her disappointment that some council members were apprehensive to include language in the resolution that promotes human rights and the rule of law in the fight against terrorism. This is in spite of the fact that it had been approved by both the Security Council and the General Assembly. She closed by stressing that the general desire for unanimity and non-competing resolutions is weakening the text and urged members of the draft to oppose efforts that do not uphold the standards expected of this Council.

Mr. Afaq Ahmad, speaking on behalf of member nations of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), concluded the discussion by expressing support for a united and comprehensive approach to the counter-terrorism mission. Mr. Ahmad continued by stating that the OIC was pleased to collaborate on proposals that were integrated into L. 42, including concerns about new and growing terrorism-related dangers, the increase of hate speech, and the misuse of new technology. Mr. Ahmad, however, was dissatisfied that the document did not include the OIC's primary issue, which is the surge in terrorist acts inspired by Islamaphobia. He went on to explain that this worrying phenomenon is a direct result of categorising and stigmatising agents who follow Islam. As a result, the OIC believes that L. 42 falls short of the OIC’s expectations and does not reflect new or emerging threats. Nonetheless, the OIC joined the agreement by promising to collaborate again on the matter.

The resolution was subsequently adopted without a vote. Finally, the Council asked the Special Rapporteur on the advancement and preservation of human rights in the context of counter-terrorism to evaluate the negative repercussions of terrorist attacks and provide recommendations.


Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) firmly condemns all acts of terrorism as unjustifiable and is profoundly concerned about violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. We ask governments to do more to understand the root causes of terrorist attacks and adopt thorough measures to ensure victims are provided with support in the aftermath of such attacks. We call on nations to adopt a worldwide rule of law to combat terrorism that is consistent with international human rights, refugee, and humanitarian law.

Terrorism, HRC51, Human Rights Council, United Nations Geneva, Justice, Geneva4justice, GICJ, Geneva International Centre for Justice

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