Respect for human rights in the fight against terrorism

Doc. 10248
5 July 2004

Motion for a resolution
presented by Mr Mooney and others

This motion has not been discussed in the Assembly and commits only the members who have signed it

1.         Since 11 September 2001, the response to the heightened profile and increased threat from international terrorism has passed through several phases. Initial public shock and anger was rapidly followed by political reaction and legislative action, both on national and international levels. Throughout this process, the Assembly has played an active role, producing several reports and making detailed proposals.

2.         It is clear that the political and legislative initiatives that have been taken are far-reaching. Both the Council of Europe, notably through the adoption of the Committee of Ministers’ Guidelines on human rights and the fight against terrorism and the establishment of the Committee of Experts on Terrorism (CODEXTER), and the European Union, particularly through the Brussels Declaration of the European Council and the Council Framework Decision on combating terrorism, have taken strong leads in coordinating European activities. It must be noted, however, that European-level activities have thus far involved relatively little direct input from European democratic assemblies such as the Parliamentary Assembly.

3.         Recent developments at national level, however, suggest that the undoubted imperatives of combating terrorism and ensuring national security are leading to a subversion of basic human rights standards. Issues have arisen notably in relation to the right to life and abolition of the death penalty, the prohibition of torture and of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the prohibition of arbitrary detention, the right to a fair trial, the prohibition of punishment without law, the rights to freedom of expression and of assembly and association, the right to an effective remedy and the prohibition of discrimination. These events have involved several Council of Europe member States and have occurred in various situations, all linked by the question of terrorism.

4.         Terrorism poses twin challenges to human rights, the rule of law and democracy: a direct threat presented by the intention of terrorists to undermine these fundamental values; and an indirect risk posed by the adoption of injudicious measures in response. The Assembly repeats its assertion that action against terrorism must be carried out in compliance with national and international law and must respect human rights. Otherwise, the very liberties that terrorists seek to destroy will be undermined from within, which the terrorists would surely count as a victory. Furthermore, excessive measures in response may lead to the dissipation of sympathy and the provocation of mistrust and hatred.

5.         The threat from terrorism may be, in its current form, a recent phenomenon, but the fundamental values and established standards of the Council of Europe nevertheless remain relevant. It must be recalled that the organisation was born in the aftermath of a world war far more bloody and destructive than the current war against terror. Its founding principles remain as valid today as they did over fifty years ago, and are fully and directly applicable in contemporary circumstances. Indeed, this is vital.

6.         The Assembly therefore resolves to study and report on the compatibility of measures adopted to combat terrorism with respect for human rights, and to make appropriate recommendations to member States and to the Committee of Ministers.

Signed [1]:
MOONEY Paschal, Ireland, LDR
GROSS Andreas, Switzerland, SOC
LINTNER Eduard, Germany, EPP/CD
LLOYD Tony, United Kingdom, SOC
MARTY Dick, Switzerland, LDR
SMITH Geraldine, United Kingdom, SOC
TOSHEV Latchezar, Bulgaria, EPP/CD
WOHLWEND Renate, Liechtenstein, EPP/CD
de ZULUETA Tana, Italy, SOC



Socialist Group
Group of the European People’s Party
European Democratic Group
Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group
Group of the Unified European Left
Not registered in a group