Human rights and the fight against terrorism
- Parliamentary Assembly
- Assembly debate on
6 October 2011 (35th Sitting) (see Doc. 12712, report of the Committee
on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, rapporteur: Lord Tomlinson).
Text adopted by the Assembly on 6 October 2011 (35th Sitting).
1. Terrorism has a direct impact on
human rights, with consequences for the enjoyment of the right to
life, liberty and physical integrity of individuals, especially
victims of terrorism. It can destabilise and undermine entire societies,
jeopardise peace and security and threaten social and economic development.
It seeks to impose upon the majority the views of a minority and
stops at nothing in the pursuit of its aims. Terrorism attacks the
pillars of democracy and the rule of law upon which the respect
of human rights is based.
2. States have a duty to protect the lives of their citizens
and the integrity of the state and must be in a position to take
appropriate measures to fight terrorism. There is no need for a
“trade-off” between human rights and effective counter-terrorist
action, as safeguards exist in human rights law itself. The European
Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5, “the Convention”), like other
international human rights instruments, can be applied in such a
way as to allow states to take reasonable and proportionate action
to defend democracy and the rule of law against the threat of terrorism.
3. The concept of “war on terror” is misleading and unhelpful
and is a threat to the entire framework of international human rights.
Terrorists are criminals, not soldiers, and terrorist crimes do
not amount to acts of war, even though they can be frequently characterised
as crimes against humanity.
4. There is a danger that temporary measures to combat terrorism,
even if considered necessary at the time of their introduction,
become permanent even when circumstances have changed. The need
for any restrictions placed on individual freedoms must be assessed
continuously as long as the restrictions remain in place.
States Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights
and its protocols are duty-bound to secure within their jurisdiction,
including for individuals or regions under their effective control
but outside their ordinary territory, the rights and freedoms guaranteed
5.1 In particular, they
shall ensure that no exception whatsoever is made to the non-derogable
rights to life and to the prohibition of torture and inhuman or
degrading treatment. This includes respecting the principle of non-refoulement, in particular when
the European Court of Human Rights has indicated an interim measure
under Rule 39 of its Rules of Court, and treating diplomatic assurances
with utmost caution.
5.2 As for rights that are subject to restrictions under the
Convention, any limitation must be strictly necessary to protect
the public and be proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued, in
line with the case law of the Court. In particular, administrative
detention should be limited to rare exceptions and subject to appropriate
control. Surveillance, interception and related measures must be
available to the state, but be clearly circumscribed by law and
subject to judicial or appropriate political supervision.
5.3 Measures limiting human rights must be phrased clearly
and interpreted narrowly, in particular when criminal liability
is involved, and must be accompanied by adequate judicial and political
6. The Parliamentary Assembly considers that terrorism should
be dealt with primarily by the criminal justice system, with its
inbuilt and well-tested fair trial safeguards to protect the presumption
of innocence and the right to liberty of all. Coercive administrative
measures for preventive purposes should be of limited duration,
be only applied as a last resort and be subject to strict conditions,
including minimum requirements regarding evidence and judicial and
appropriate political oversight. They must fully comply with the requirements
of international human rights law.
Member states should review their national legislation and
practice on a regular basis to ensure that the impact of any anti-terrorism
measure is consistent with Council of Europe standards, in particular
the European Convention on Human Rights, as interpreted by the European
Court of Human Rights. This should include a parliamentary follow-up
to this resolution, in line with Resolution 1822
(2011) on the reform
of the Parliamentary Assembly.