Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism
Prof. Martin Scheinin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, recently submitted its report to the Human Rights Council.
The British press has generally presented the report as a severe rebuke to the UK government.
In truth, the Special Rapporteur contends that several countries, including the UK, hid illegal acts and breached basic human rights of detainees in US rendition programs.
For instance, Prof. Scheinin first notes that credible reports suggest that at least until May 2007 a number of States, including the UK, “facilitated extraordinary renditions in various ways” (para. 51) before writing that “evidence proves that Australian, British and United States intelligence personnel have themselves interviewed detainees who were held incommunicado by the Pakistani ISI in so-called safe houses, where they were being tortured” (para. 54, fn. 63).
He subsequently – and rightly in our view – expresses his worries as regards “the increasing use of State secrecy provisions and public interest immunities for instance by Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the United Kingdom or the United States to conceal illegal acts from oversight bodies or judicial authorities, or to protect itself from criticism, embarrassment and - most importantly – liability” (para. 59).
Generally speaking, this UN Report is worth reading in full. One may only hope that democratic governments will come clean about the extent of their past criminal policies and actions, pay due attention to the report’s conclusions and implement its sensible recommendations.