Event: The role of counter-terrorism laws in closing civic space

The Role of Counter-Terrorism Laws in the Closing of Civic Space

March 1, 1:00pm – 2:00pm

Palais des Nations, Room XXVII

In recent years a disturbing trend has emerged:  the increasing abuse and misuse of counter-terrorism laws by States to target not terrorists, but civil society and human rights defenders.  This trend has its roots in the international security narrative that since 2001 has pushed States to adopt strong counter-terrorism measures without equal attention for the role of human rights in addressing the underlying causes of terrorism.

Initiatives of the UN’s counter-terrorism and security architecture at times appear to have incentivized such approaches. This dynamic has created a permissive environment in which some States have seized upon security concerns and UN calls to enact security measures as a convenient pretext to curtail the legitimate exercise of civic freedoms, including the freedoms of association, expression, and peaceful assembly.  States misuse of counter-terrorism laws for this purpose has taken many forms, including the use of counter-terrorism measures to dissolve civil society organizations, the detention and arrest of critical civil society voices, and the online and offline censorship and surveillance of civil society actors.

In her latest report to the Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism documents this trend and makes recommendations on how the trend can be reversed.  This event will provide an opportunity for States and civil society to discuss this report with the UN Special Rapporteur and identify ways that all stakeholders can push back against the misuse and abuse of counter-terrorism laws.

A panel featuring the UN Special Rapporteur and civil society representatives will discuss why and how the global security narrative has led to the increasing misuse and abuse of counter-terrorism laws to curtail civic freedoms and explore ways in which different actors, including the UN, UN member states, and civil society, can contribute to the reversing of this trend.


Panellists Professor Fionnuala Ni Aolain, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism
  Alexander Verkhovskiy, Director, SOVA Center, Russia
  Melanie Strickland, community activist and member of the Stansted 15, UK
  Befekadu Hailu, Blogger and Human Rights Activist, EHRP/Addis Maleda, Ethiopia
Moderator Nicholas Miller, Legal Advisor, ICNL