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The erosion of the right to privacy in the fight against terrorism

The current wave of privacy-intrusive measures in the name of countering terrorism should be countered through a global declaration on data protection and data privacy; the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Martin Scheinin said, as he released his latest report which focuses on the erosion of the right to privacy in the fight against terrorism. In his report, Scheinin critically assesses developments that have adversely affected the right to privacy in various parts of the world using the justification of combating terrorism. These include racial or ethnic profiling, creation of privacy-intrusive databases and resorting to new technology, such as body scanners, without proper human rights assessment. Based on his evaluation, the UN independent expert dismisses the perception that, in an all-encompassing process of “balancing”, counter-terrorism always outweighs privacy. Instead, he calls for a rigorous analytical framework for securing that any restrictions on privacy rights are necessary, proportionate and adequately regulated. One of his main recommendations is that the inter-governmental Human Rights Council should launch a process aiming at a global declaration on data protection and data privacy. The Special Rapporteur also encourages the Human Rights Committee, the independent expert body supervising compliance with the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to consider drawing up a general comment on the right to privacy, including the proper scope of its limitations. Scheinin will present his report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva in the second week of March. In his previous reports, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism has addressed themes such as definitions of terrorism, racial and ethnic profiling, the right to a fair trial, and the gender impact of counter-terrorism measures. Mr. Scheinin was appointed Special Rapporteur by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in August 2005. The mandate was renewed by Human Rights Council Resolution 6/28.

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