UNSC meeting: Must protect rights in terror crackdown, statement says

At least five delegates to the UN Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee meeting – including the US, UK and the UN Human Rights Envoy – on Saturday raised the issue of human rights in the context of the use of emerging technologies against terrorism. The meeting included the UN Human Rights Envoy, Ireland and Norway, who highlighted the issue of surveillance and privacy and how they could be compromised under the guise of counter-terrorism. The US, meanwhile, condemned the shutdown of communications services as an ‘excuse’ of counter-terrorism.

Saturday’s Delhi Declaration made mention of ‘human rights’ at least eight times and ‘fundamental freedoms’ twice. He called for embedding the use of counter-terrorism technologies in the framework of human rights. “…Member States must ensure that all measures taken to combat terrorism, including the use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes, respect the Charter of the United Nations and fulfill their obligations under the international law, including international human rights law, humanitarian law, and international refugee law, as appropriate,” a key paragraph reads.

On another note, the statement said it recognizes the efforts of the UN-affiliated Tech Against Terrorism initiative to foster collaboration with representatives of the tech industry, civil society, academia and government to enhance terrorist capabilities. to use the Internet to promote terrorist purposes. , “while also respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

Scott Campbell, Human Rights and Digital Technology Team Leader at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, raised the issue of “surveillance” and “spyware” tools used by law enforcement against dissenting voices in the name of counter-terrorism .

“While it is often justifiable that they have been used to combat terrorism and crime, such spyware tools have often been used for illegitimate and much broader purposes, including to suppress critical or dissenting views and those who express them.” said Campbell. He said they have called for a moratorium on its use and marketing until adequate safeguards are developed and put in place.

Countering the use of new and emerging technologies to commit terrorist acts must be enshrined in human rights law. This is essential because of our commitment to upholding rights as a legal and ethical obligation. But because respecting rights and fighting terrorism are fundamental to sustainable and effective efforts to protect our approaches to security. To cross these important boundaries, they are not only breaking the law, but also undermining efforts to fight terrorism by undermining community trust that is essential to successful prevention and response,” Campbell said. “It has been shown that demands to filter and block social media content often disproportionately affect minorities and journalists.”

Campbell also said that states’ methods of countering terrorism have often been used over vague definitions of terrorism or acts of terrorism, sometimes conferring extensive executive powers without adequate protection against abuse.

Mass surveillance, often portrayed as a necessary counter-terrorism measure, has been a serious problem for many years and appears to be expanding through indiscriminate video and facial recognition surveillance, he said.

The U.S. Representative to the Counter-Terrorism Committee said the U.S. remains proactive in combating terrorist use of the Internet while “respecting freedom of expression in accordance with our Constitution and our long-standing support for an open, safe, trusted , reliable and interoperable internet”.

The UK representative also spoke on human rights: “As we adapt and develop our counter-terrorism efforts in line with the misuse of emerging technologies by terrorists, we also need to step back and look at the underlying drivers of terrorism. This means upholding human rights, good governance and the rule of law.”

Raising the issue of surveillance, the representative from Ireland said: “Often counter-terrorism measures violate human rights. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights report on the right to privacy highlighted how hacking tools and mass surveillance of public places, ostensibly to combat terrorism, are being misused to attack journalists, human rights defenders and political opponents. Human rights violations under the guise of counter-terrorism increase radicalization.”

Norway reiterated Ireland on the protection of human rights and privacy. Freedom of expression must be protected both offline and online.

In July 2021, a global joint research project revealed that Pegasus, a powerful spyware developed by Israeli cybersecurity firm NSO Group, may have been used to potentially target cell phones of individuals in several countries, including India.

In August of this year, the Supreme Court adopted the report of the commission appointed by the Supreme Court to investigate allegations that personal communication devices belonging to a range of people, including journalists, civil society activists, politicians, etc., were illegally targeted by Pegasus. The apex court commission found no conclusive evidence about the use of the spyware in phones it examined, but noted that the central government had “failed to cooperate” with the panel, then Chief Justice of India NV Ramana had said.

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