Violent extremism prevention ‘only effective’ if human rights are enshrined
By NLM Writer
Counter-extremism programmes, including those in the United Kingdom and the United States, are contributing to human rights violations, according to a United Nations expert.
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A report submitted to the Human Rights Council last month said religious groups, minorities and civil society actors in particular have been victims of rights violations and targeting under the guise of countering “extremism.”
Special rapporteur Fionnuala Ní Aolain said any programme that relies on teachers, social workers and health-care staff to report signs of radicalisation should be scrapped.
“The negative impact cannot be overstated,” her report read. Such measures break the “fragile trust” between communities and public services.
The report also found that many counter-extremism practices result in “over selection and overreporting” on discriminatory grounds.
Muslim communities have repeatedly claimed they have been disproportionately targeted by the UK’s Prevent programme, as well as the Countering Violent Extremism Task Force in the US.
“Violations of the rights of religious and ethnic minorities are being enabled by ‘deradicalization’ policies and practice,” the report said.
The report added that many countries engaged in counter-extremism efforts have policies that are not based on scientific research and could instead be “counter-productive”.
States engaged in counter-terrorism efforts should ensure “that policies and programmes aimed at preventing violent extremism are evidence-based and scientifically sound” and do not stifle peaceful political dissidence, criticism, non-violent protest or freedom of religion, it said.
While recognising the global challenges presented by terrorism and the costs borne by individuals and communities, Ms Ní Aoláin said that current approaches to prevent it, lack a consistent rule of law or human rights grounding. She also underscored the lack of a robust scientific basis for the current practices countering violent extremism and the complete absence of human rights-based monitoring and evaluation, including by UN entities.
“The United Nations counter-terrorism architecture must do better in protecting human rights and the rule of law when they support and engage with national programmes,” she said.
The UN has also regularly voiced serious concerns over the absence of precise legal definitions of extremism and violent extremism in national legislations and the widespread abuses of human rights that it entails.