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FRA conference calls for a united front for security and human rights

16 November 2016

Unauthorised police checks, hateful words. These are just a few examples of the responses to terrorism in the EU. With the risk that this will lead to a climate of fear and mistrust, it is useful for governments, officials and citizens alike to reconsider how current policies are effectively contributing to a safe and lawful society. NHC shares human rights groups’ growing concern over government responses to attacks in Belgium and France, and the general attitude of citizens toward migrants within the EU.

EU officials are working to build trust and maintain respect in the face of terrorist threats. On November 14, EU representatives met in Vienna to discuss strategies for ensuring security and fundamental rights within the EU. Director Michael O’Flaherty of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) emphasized a fundamental rights approach, calling on officials to fight terrorism and radicalization while respecting human rights, observing the rule of law, and maintaining “the values of openness and respect on which the EU is based.” Representatives discussed security and migration policies and how to effectively collaborate with EU institutions and Member States. Discussions were part of an annual meeting of  the network of EU Justice and Home Affairs agencies.

After purported instances of police abuse and investigations without judicial permission, numerous families and individuals have been wrongfully criminalized and marginalized. Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently published an article detailing these raids and detentions, which are an infringement upon the privacy and basic rights of these individuals. Letta Tayler, a senior terrorism research at HRW, warned of the “overbroad and sometimes abusive nature” of Belgium’s counterterrorism laws and policies.

Similarly destructive practices can be seen in England. Simon Jenkins of The Guardian reports that some primary schools have allegedly asked children to essentially spy on one another and report any “suspicious behavior”. Such tactics could not only encourage harmful racial profiling, but they also could feed mistrust and fear at all levels of society.

The FRA’s conference was an important step to assure that European officials work together at all levels to maintain the safety of its citizens while respecting basic human rights. FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty commented on the importance of mutual trust and respect:

“Ensuring the safety of everyone in the EU is of critical importance. Security measures can only work if they are respectful of human rights and work with and not against all the communities that go to make up European society. We very much welcome this opportunity to discuss ways of increasing our capacity to combat terrorism and radicalisation, while remaining true to the rule of law and the values of openness and respect on which the EU is based.”

NHC stands together with European officials and institutions as they maintain the rule of law, strive to rebuild trust and respect, and protect the rights of all residents and citizens.

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