UN Special Rapporteur on human rights Martin Scheinin March 10 cited the case of Canadian citizen and former US detainee Maher Arar in presenting a report critical of international counter-terrorism practices to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva. Scheinin flagged Arar’s deportation from the US as an example of how intelligence sharing without “adequate safeguards” can lead to human rights violations. The report was broadly critical of US “rendition” policies and also censured the United Kingdom, Australia and other countries for providing assistance to the US.
Speaking to reporters after presenting the report, Scheinin said that UN human rights investigators will be looking into possible human rights violations committed by the US during the “war on terror” and that the investigation will not be relaxed because of a change in administrations. On March 11, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that the UK will not conduct an official judicial inquiry into whether British intelligence officials ever acted illegally in assisting the US, but did note that police could initiate such investigations.
Scheinin has been a vocal proponent of greater limits on the power of intelligence agencies to act with limited safeguards under the justification of national security. In October, he urged the UN to restructure or eliminate the existing terrorist “blacklisting” system. In June, he called on the US to set a concrete deadline for closure of the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, a task accomplished in January by President Barack Obama. In May, he urged Spain to reform its legal standards for the treatment of suspected terrorists. (Jurist, March 11)