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UN expert in human rights and counter-terrorism welcomes US President’s speech

GENEVA (24 May 2013) – United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, today welcomed US President Barack Obama’s speech, and the publication of policy principles governing counter-terrorism operations, including targeted killings.

“This extremely important speech breaks new ground in a number of key respects. It affirms for the first time this Administration's commitment to seek an end to its armed conflict with Al Qaida as soon as possible; it reminds the world that not every terrorist threat or terrorist attack can be equated with a situation of continuing armed conflict; it sets out more clearly and more authoritatively than ever before the Administration's legal justifications for targeted killing, and the constraints that it operates under; it clarifies, and proposes improvements to, the procedures for independent oversight; and it sets out the steps the President is now resolved to take in order to close Guantanamo Bay.

“The publication of the procedural guidelines for the use of force in counter-terrorism operations is a significant step towards increased transparency and accountability. It also disposes of a number of myths, including the suggestion that the US is entitled to regard all military-aged males as combatants, and therefore as legitimate targets.

“I will be engaging with senior Administration officials in Washington over the coming days and weeks in an effort to put some flesh on the bones of the announcements made today.

“The President’s historic statement today is to be welcomed as a highly significant step towards greater transparency and accountability; and as a declaration that the US war with Al Qaida and its associated forces is coming to an end. The President's principled commitment to ensuring the closure of Guantanamo is an utterly essential step.

“His acknowledgement that the time has come to tackle not only the manifestations of terrorism but also its social, economic and political causes around the world - to seek long term solutions - signals a shift in rhetoric and a move in policy emphasis towards promoting a strategy of sustainable and ethical counter-terrorism, consistent with Pillar I of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy*.”

Ben Emmerson (United Kingdom) is the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. On 1 August 2011, he took up his functions on the mandate that was created in 2005 by the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights and renewed by the United Nations Human Rights Council for a three year period in September 2010. As Special Rapporteur he is independent from any Government and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Terrorism/Pages/SRTerrorismIndex.aspx

(*) Check the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy: http://www.un.org/terrorism/strategy-counter-terrorism.shtml

UN Human Rights, country page – United States of America: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/USIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests please contact Claudia Gross (+41 22 917 9184 / cgross@ohchr.org), Helle Iversen (+41 22 917 9421 / hiversen@ohchr.org) or write to srct@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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