EU counter-terrorism law opens door to discrimination and human rights abuses


Brussels:  The EU Directive on combating terrorism which was adopted by the European Parliament today runs the risk of undermining fundamental rights and having a disproportionate and discriminatory impact on ethnic and religious communities.

An overall climate of suspicion against certain groups based on their ethnic or religious belonging brings concerns for the measures put forward in the new EU law, as well as its overly broad scope and definitions. Although a general human rights safeguard clause has been included, the directive opens the door to criminalisation of behaviour instead of intent, that may have no direct link to violent terrorist acts. Broad definitions, for instance of ‘glorification’ of terrorism and ‘travelling for terrorist purposes’, could lead to human rights restrictions in a context of increased securitisation.

ENAR Chair Amel Yacef said: “This is a bad day for protection of rights in Europe. This law could result in discriminatory practices targeting ethnic and religious minority communities in the name of counter-terrorism. We now urge EU Member States to include human rights safeguards in their national laws to prevent such practices. We won’t combat terrorism by encouraging a toxic climate of suspicion and by fueling tensions between communities.”

Recent security measures recently adopted in some EU countries have already led to serious human rights violations. Hasty measures grounded in emotional policy-making rather than evidence of efficiency can lead to discriminatory application, notably against migrants and Muslims or those perceived as such.

For instance in France, since the state of emergency was declared after the November 2015 Paris attacks, human rights NGOs have reported 3,594 raids on houses, mosques and prayer halls as well as house arrests, resulting in 6 criminal investigations for terrorism and only one ongoing trial. In the United Kingdom, surveillance cameras are placed in so-called Muslim areas and social workers are required to denounce ‘radical’ behaviour. Many innocent Muslims are targeted mainly on the basis of their religious practice, with no evidence pointing to their involvement in any criminal act.

In addition, the legislative process for adopting the directive was extremely problematic. It was rushed through behind closed doors without any human rights impact assessment or any consideration for civil society’s input.

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