Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Counterterrorism

Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Counterterrorism


Geneva Delegates 

Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights in her report to the UN Human Rights Council, in her last address, sought to confront the ever-increasing use of technology within policing and the adoption and implementation of “high-risk” policies in the name of national security that negatively impacts the human rights afforded to people around the world. She also discussed visits to the Maldives and their counterterrorism and human rights efforts. 

In her report she highlighted three main trends that were prevalent in today's world when it comes to the use of technology in combating terrorism. The first was the use of “leveraging” of national security to justify the implementation of technology and policies that would permit the use of human rights violating technologies and policies that would, in her words, come through the “counterterrorism backdoor”. Second was the lack of consistent human rights practices and standards when it comes to the various technologies implemented that are used in our daily lives. The third trend was the deceptive argument used by countries that the promises that the adoption of high-risk technology would remain only with their respective security issues only later to be exported into all aspects of our lives. In this trend we see “the move from margins to the mainstream”.

One piece of technology that was heavily discussed in the interactive dialogue was the mass proliferation of drones from the battlefield to policing. This rapid mass use of drones in recent years, which Ní Aoláin calls at “breakneck speeds” has implications for human rights as they remain underregulated or with the lack of legislation to properly provide oversight to prevent abuses.

The lack of these oversight mechanisms and legislation in many countries has led to the abuse of these technologies by cracking down on civil society, dissidents, advocacy and humanitarian groups.

Other violations of human rights brought up was the collection of biometric data and other forms of data/intelligence collection. Biometric data that once used to identify foreign domestic fighters later became the collection of private and “intimate” data on everyone. In this regard there was also the call for these technological practices to be regulated and the demand for independent oversight.

While much discussion was focused on independent oversight mechanisms and need for legislation, the delegations such as Ecuador and Burkina Faso stressed the importance of regulating the businesses that produce these technologies to further prevent human rights abuses.

The issue of Lethal Autonomous Weapons (LAWS) was also presented by delegates from countries such as Luxembourg, Costa Rica, Armenia, Panama, Pakistan and Nigeria who called for the need to regulate LAWS or to ban their use.

The delegation of the Maldives at the interactive dialogue discussed their strong commitment to fulfil their counterterrorism aims whilst also adhering to their human rights obligations. This includes programmes to address extremism, strengthening the criminal justice system and improving accountability and transparency. The issue that was addressed was the lack of financial resources and technical expertise, and thus they looked to work alongside other regional and world partners.