You are here:
Protecting human rights in the fight against terrorism
Switzerland engages in efforts to fight terrorism undertaken by states and international organisations, in particular the United Nations and the Council of Europe. Thereby, Switzerland ensures that it not only receives reciprocal support for its efforts in this field but also that human rights and international humanitarian law are respected.
Counter-terrorist sanctions by the UN
Since 1999, on the basis of Resolution 1267 and various follow-up resolutions, the UN Security Council has imposed a number of obligations on UN member states in the fight against terrorism. These include targeted sanctions such as the freezing of assets, travel restrictions as well as arms embargos against both natural persons and legal entities suspected of being associated with Al Qaeda or the Taliban. Presently, the names of about 500 natural persons and legal entities appear on the list of this sanctions regime. Switzerland has applied these sanctions since 3 October 2000.
For better legal protection of targeted persons
For a long time there was not a sufficiently fair de-listing procedure for persons subject to sanctions. In particular, there was no mechanism for such persons to apply to have their listing reviewed by an independent and impartial body.
From the beginning, Switzerland pointed out this shortcoming and, in summer 2005, together with a coalition of like-minded states (Germany, Belgium, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, Liechtenstein, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden) launched an initiative to improve the sanctions procedure, in particular with a view to obtaining better protection of the rights of affected persons. In summer 2008, a tangible proposal was submitted to the Security Council to set up an independent review body. Meanwhile, a number of national and regional courts and parliaments have also criticised the lack of protection of individual rights.
On 17 December 2009, the Security Council responded by adopting a resolution establishing the office of the ombudsperson as a contact point for persons affected by the anti-terror sanctions of the UN Security Council. Persons whose names have been included in the list of the sanctions regime against Al Qaeda and the Taliban now have the right both to be informed about the reasons of the sanctions against them and to appeal to the Ombudsperson to be delisted.
The Ombudsperson examines the case independently and impartially and submits to the Sanctions Committee of the Security Council the reasons for or against removing the name of the person concerned from the sanctions list. The UN Secretary-General is requested to appoint an eminent individual of high moral character, distinguished by his or her integrity and impartiality, to be ombudsperson.
Switzerland welcomes this improvement to the existing procedure. As a result, the rights of individuals will be taken into account at the international level and the legitimacy of the United Nations system of sanctions will be strengthened.
Guidelines of the Council of Europe
With Switzerland’s participation, the Council of Europe drafted a set of “Guidelines on human rights and the fight against terrorism”. These Guidelines are based on the principles derived from the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights. They provide a good example of the law applicable in this field.