Worldwide, many violent extremism prevention programmes directly violate human rights and risk even fostering radicalisation, instead of preventing it. This is the warning issued by UN experts in the latest report drafted by Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.
Fionnuala Ní Aoláin explains that “Prevention is an important and necessary tool but it will only be effective when it is practised in a way that protects and affirms rights”; these practices “produce alienation and mistrust in the communities we need most to address the global challenges of extremist violence”. Her report, based on the outcomes of the research carried out by Agenfor within the EU-funded project J-SAFE, finds that religious groups, minorities and civil society actors, in particular, are victims of rights violations and are targeted under the guise of countering “extremism”.
Sergio Bianchi, author of the report referenced in the UNHRC Report, noted that “Large-scale violations of the rights of political, religious and ethnic minorities are being enabled by “deradicalization” policies and practices, based on the UK Home Office model of Prevent, which has been a-critically adopted by the EU. Even if it may sound like a paradox, today Brexit represents an opportunity for Europe to exit from the terrorism emergency and return to the traditional rights-based EU policies, with the focus on fundamental rights, the Stockholm’s Roadmap and clear jurisdictions and attribution of powers among judiciary, executive and intel agencies.”
The UNHRC report pays particular attention to the lack of robust scientific data underpinning many of the claims made by States and international institutions to justify their prevention practices. It severely criticises these programmes for lacking any kind of systematic and empirically grounded evaluation process, including assessing their impact on human rights. “It is time to change and convince the EU institutions that Europe has a future as alternative to the US and Chinese models. We are the homeland of rights, civil liberty and neutrality, as basis for our security”, concluded Sergio Bianchi, Director of Agenfor International.