UN Experts Hail End of Racial U.S. Counter-Terrorism Program

Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism Mutuma Ruteere. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré
Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism Mutuma Ruteere. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

Racial or religious profiling has so far proved to be ineffective in fighting terrorism, say two United Nations human rights experts.

They have welcomed the end of a “discriminatory and ineffective” counter-terrorism measure adopted in the United States after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.

The experts’ comments follow the US Government’s decision to dismantle the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) for citizens of 25 countries, all in the Middle East, South Asia or North Africa.

“Effective counter-terrorism strategies and legislation should not be based on preconceptions or misunderstandings about the groups that are most susceptible to radicalization or violent extremism,” said the UN Special Rapporteurs on racism and xenophobia, Mutuma Ruteere, and on freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed.

“Such strategies should be developed by relying on evidence to ensure a proper understanding of the national and local issues,” they added. “This will not only ensure that all at-risk communities are adequately engaged with, but also that entire communities and ethnic or religious groups are not stigmatized or discriminated against.”

Mr. Ruteere stressed that “counter-terrorism measures must not discriminate against non-citizens, in purpose or effect, on the grounds of race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin.”

“I remain hopeful that the new U.S. administration can learn from the shortcomings of the NSEERS and adopt a non-discriminatory approach to counter-terrorism policies,” he stated.

Not a single terrorism prosecution has been brought across the country among the 80,000 Arabs, Muslims and South Asians who registered for NSEERS. Although deportation proceedings were started against some 14,000 of them, none has been found to have links to any terrorist or violent activities.

“Discrimination between human beings on the grounds of religion or belief constitutes an affront to human dignity and a disavowal of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations,” said Mr. Shaheed.

“This kind of discrimination is a violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and described in detail in the International Covenants on Human Rights,” he emphasized.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.

Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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Rakesh Raman