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UN expert launches Global Study documenting misuse of counter-terrorism practices to silence civil society

21 June 2023

NEW YORK (21 June 2023) – Human rights violations against civil society are directly linked to counter-terrorism practices and measures to counter violent extremism in every region across the world, a new global study by a UN expert revealed today.

“Civil society across the globe is suffering death by a thousand cuts, through the cumulative impacts posed by overlapping and intertwined practices, including vague and imprecise laws on counter-terrorism and preventing and countering violent extremism, physical, digital, and judicial harassment, and administrative measures like sanctions and dissolutions, reprisals and intimidation,” said Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the UN Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights.

The UN expert launched the Global Study on the Impact of Counter-Terrorism Measures on Civil Society and Civic Space on the sidelines of the Third United Nations High-Level Conference of Heads of Counter-Terrorism Agencies of Member States today.

“The Study documents restrictions and human rights violations against civil society that are directly linked to the regulatory and institutional practices of counter-terrorism and preventing and countering violent extremism, in every region across the world,” Ní Aoláin said.

The Study brings together rich reporting across UN Special Procedures, the Human Rights Committee, and other treaty body mechanisms to demonstrate the significant documentation of counter-terrorism and preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) misuse and related human rights abuses over the last 20 years. It builds on this data from the ground-up, collecting data through a civil society engaged and led process.

Ni Aolain’s Study found “unrelenting misuse and abuse of counter-terrorism and P/CVE against civil society, as well as discrete instances of good practice mainstreaming human rights and meaningfully engaging with civil society.”

The Global Study urges consolidated action by Member States, the UN, private sector, and other stakeholders. “The UN and Member States have collective interests in maintaining the integrity of the UN Charter, and this Study provides both the evidence base to end the status quo, as well as concrete recommendations to remedy globally evidenced human rights deficits in approaches to counter-terrorism and P/ CVE,” the UN expert said.

“The individuals that took risks to provide evidence to this Study and who take risks every day for the dignity and humanity of others deserve recognition, support, protection, defense, and care,” Ní Aoláin said. “It is the particular obligation of the UN to be rock solid in its support to and defense of civil society. They deserve no less from us,” she said.

The Global Study and the digital experience for the report are available at:


*The expert: Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms.  Karen Reyes Tolosa (+41.76.342.34.00; [email protected])

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Maya Derouaz ([email protected]) and Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected]).
Follow news related to the UN's independent human rights experts on Twitter: @UN_SPExperts

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