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NEWS

Cross-border criminal justice and security: the impact on human rights

admin - January 8, 2019 - counter-terrorism, Cross-border justice

 

The need to cooperate in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism is now arguably greater than ever before. As a response, states across the OSCE region have started to work more closely through both bilateral and multilateral means.

Every country has an obligation to protect its citizens from the threat of terrorism and violent extremism, but states cannot do this effectively unless, in doing so, they promote and protect human rights. In the wake of this, the Civic Solidarity Platform’s Counter Terrorism Working Group, co-ordinated by Fair Trials and the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, has produced a report focusing on the impact that cross-border criminal justice and security has on human rights.

The protection of human rights is part of various counter-terrorism strategies, but experiences and examples from across the OSCE region make it clear that concerns for human rights are often overlooked in favour of efficiency. The report identifies and provides analysis of just some of the different counter-terrorism and anti-extremism cooperation mechanisms that are in force and that are used by different member states across the OSCE region. The examples demonstrate the breadth of the challenge and the importance of keeping human rights at the forefront of discussions on cross-border cooperation.

One focus of the report is on extradition mechanisms in the region, an area that Fair Trials has focused on for a number of years. As we have documented, extraditions – while an important tool – can also have a devastating impact on human rights. The adoption of regional extradition instruments that remove ‘traditional’ procedural safeguards shows a trend across the OSCE region to prioritise efficiency over human rights. This is not a surprise, and reflects much of Fair Trials work. What is more of a surprise however, is that the report also shows a rise in the use of expulsions, including various types of administrative removals like deportations, as a counter-terrorism measure. There are also signs that states are willing to use expulsions as an alternative to extraditions, to avoid the comparative complexity and greater judicial scrutiny of extradition procedures.

The report also looks at the different mechanisms used for cross-border information-sharing, and considers how they can undermine the privacy of individuals, and perhaps more significantly, how insufficient human safeguards can subsequently lead to unlawful detentions, unfair trials, and the risk of forcibly returning refugees to the country they fled from. The most prominent example of this is through the misuse of INTERPOL alerts.

As the final point, the report considers preventing the financing of terrorism, which has become a key aspect of cross-border counter-terrorism policies. However, the perception that civil society organisations can act as conduits for the financing of terrorism has meant that counter-terrorism laws are being used to limit their activities, as happened to the SOVA Center in 2017.

In the fight against terrorism, there clearly needs to be cooperation, and countries must work together to combat it, but it cannot be at any cost. Unfortunately, all too often, only lip-service is paid to the human rights impacted upon by counter terror practice.

Read the report ‘Cross-border criminal justice and security: Human rights concerns in the OSCE region’ here.

 

The Counter Terrorism Working Group is co-ordinated by Fair Trials and the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis. It is part of the Civic Solidarity Platform (‘CSP’), which brings together civil society organisations from across the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (‘OSCE’) region. It was officially launched in January 2018 following a roundtable organised by Fair Trials in November 2017 in Vienna (supported by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs). This event informed the Vienna Declaration on Preventing Security Measures from Eclipsing Human Rights, adopted at the OSCE Parallel Civil Society Conference in December 2017.

 

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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