counter-terrorism and human rights

Back to the Post 9/11 Dynamics?

Three experts who do research on counter-terrorism and human rights met at the Institute on Friday to discuss the counter-terrorism landscape in Europe after the Paris attacks.

The panel consisted of Martin Scheinin, Professor of International Law and Human Rights at the European University Institute, Mark Klamberg,  Associate Professor in International Law at Stockholm University, and Peter Vedel Kessing, Senior Researcher in international terrorism and security law at the Danish Institute for Human Rights.

Back to the post 9/11 dynamics?

Martin Scheinin said that to a certain extent, the 2015 event in Paris have brought us back to the post 9/11 dynamics regarding security concerns.

He said after an event of that type, politicians often take symbolic action including, for example, profiling, stricter border controls, and stricter interrogation methods of suspects. And he said legislation will be easy to pass in such a climate of panic and that typically more power can be transferred to the police.

Scheinin called for rational law-making after such attacks. He said intelligence agencies and police should prove the need for the surveillance measures they aim to introduce. Judges can then assess if the human rights cost is reasonable.

He went on to present the results of the SURVEILLE project, a multidisciplinary collaborative research project funded by the European Commission that has led to the creation of a methodology that uses a nuanced approach for determining security benefits of surveillance technologies against financial costs, moral hazards and impact on fundamental rights.

For the first time, this comprehensive methodology, the SURVEILLE methodology, takes into account the impact of different surveillance technologies on fundamental rights like the right to privacy and freedom of expression. At the same time, it measures effectiveness, including cost. The methodology is informed by local conditions and scenarios and will simultaneously protect people’s security and fundamental rights.

He also mentioned that there has been a shift in the counter-terrorism discussion over the years from a focus on torture to a focus on privacy issues. He also asked if the focus today – in the aftermath of Paris – should be on surveillance of people or if more should be done  when it comes to identifying guns and explosives.  

Scheinin also talked about his work as the former UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.

From the Swedish perspective

Mark Klamberg spoke in detail about Swedish legislation and policies on counter-terrorism and surveillance and their potential impact on human rights.

He delivered a solid presentation on signals intelligence and data retention and the recent legislation from 2008 governing them. He mentioned a few recent high-profile cases in Sweden involving counter-terrorism and surveillance. And he discussed the current agenda in the field, which in Sweden seems to be the criminalization of terrorist travel.

And on the Danish side

Peter Vedel Kessing discussed the recent Danish experience with counter-terrorism. This included two pieces of legislation in 2002 and after the London attacks in 2006 that made changes to the criminal code, increased power to police and intelligence agencies, and made it easier to monitor individuals. He also discussed the attack in Denmark last February and the counter-terrorism response from the government.

In regards to his discussion around “criminalizing foreign fighters”, he talked about a recent law that would give Danish citizens/residents 10 years to life imprisonment for joining a force fighting against Denmark or Danish interests.

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