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Counter Terrorism

It is in our common interest to stop those who kill and mutilate innocent people.

The problem is that many States are taking advantage of the legitimate fight against terrorism to target peaceful opponents and human rights defenders. Authoritarian States and even some democratic ones have been riding a wave of popular support driven by the fear of indiscriminate bombings to knock down some of our fundamental rights. The worst part has been to bring back torture or even to openly try to justify it, despite the universal ban on this practice.

Far from making us safer, these policies endanger all of us. Torture, the intentional destruction of another human being, is never justifiable, no matter who the target is. Additionally, torture is never confined to issues around national security and the fight against terrorists. Our field experience shows that the vast majority of victims have nothing to do with terrorist violence. They are frequently the poor, members of marginalised groups, activists, peaceful demonstrators who rubbed those in power the wrong way, or petty criminals.

In answer to these dangerous policies, the OMCT has brought together members of its SOS-Torture Network who have daily experience working in countries suffering from both terrorist violence and the widespread use of torture by the authorities. This group actively exchanges data collected from the field, works on responses to terrorism that are in line with international law, takes public positions and engages with United Nations and other experts to ensure that counter-terrorism policies are free of torture.

Our field experience shows that the vast majority of torture victims have nothing to do with terrorist violence.

The Tunis office of the OMCT carried out a groundbreaking study on the thousands of Tunisians subjected to repressive measures following opaque and arbitrary procedures. The 2019 “Being S” report combines legal analysis and storytelling to paint a Kafkaesque picture: wearing a full body veil or an altercation with police can be enough to get the dreaded “S” label. The consequences are loss of jobs and homes, social ostracising, including for the children of those listed, depression, and even attempted suicide.

In Tunisia and elsewhere, the OMCT engages in a dialogue with the authorities to search for ways to reconcile justified counter-terrorism measures with respect for the rule of law.