A group of 11 civil society groups, including the Defending Dissent Foundation, and experts joined the Charity & Security Network in a Sept. 15, 2014 submission to the UN Human Rights Commission recommending that the U.S. takes steps to make counterterrorism rules for nonprofits consistent with international human rights standards. The submission is part of the HRC’s Universal Periodic Review process. Stakeholders filed comments and the HRC’s review will take place in the spring of 1015. The comments highlighted restrictions on speech and association of peacebuilders that want to engage armed groups to reduce conflict as well as barriers the Department of Treasury’s licensing process creates for humanitarian assistance to civilians in many conflict zones. Individuals/Organizations Endorsing The Report:
- Alliance for Peacebuilding, Washington, DC, USA
- American Friends Service Committee, Philadelphia, PA USA
- Defending Dissent Foundation, Takoma Park, MD, USA
- The Fund for Global Human Rights, Washington, DC, USA
- Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) The Hague, The Netherlands
- Karamah: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, Washington, DC, USA
- KinderUSA, Dallas, TX, USA
- Peace Appeal Foundation, Charlottesville, VA, USA
- Peace Catalyst International, Louisville, KY, USA
- Zakat Foundation, Chicago, IL, USA
- Eileen F. Babbitt, PhD, Professor of the Practice International Conflict Analysis and Resolution, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy Tufts University Medford, MA USA
1. Charitable, development, grantmaking, faith-based, and peacebuilding organizations based in the United States (U.S.) support and protect vulnerable people around the world, promote human rights and contribute to sustaining democratic societies. These civil society organizations and the people who participate in them and benefit from their activities are protected in their right to associate with one another, to assemble and carry out activities and to express ideas, opinions and share information. In this way civil society organizations represent the combined exercise of the fundamental human rights of freedom of association, assembly and expression.
2. Within civil society humanitarian organizations that operate on the principles of humanity, neutrality and independence enjoy special protections under international humanitarian law, including the right to offer their services to civilians in armed conflict. Civilians in turn are entitled to receive such services when provided on the basis of need alone.
3. International human rights law, international humanitarian law, as embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol II protect these rights. States, including the United States (U.S.), can only limit (derogate from) these rights for specific purposes and then only to the extent necessary and in a specific, proportionate and temporary manner.
4. This submission addresses the failure of the U.S. to implement 2011 UPR recommendations 92.58 and 92.65. It accepted both, agreeing to make all domestic counterterrorism legislation and action fully consistent with human rights standards, and to review laws to bring them in line with its international obligations.
Recommendations: We recommend that the U.S. engage civil society in a realignment of its national security and counterterrorism laws in order to remove legal restrictions on speech and association aimed at reducing armed conflict, lower barriers to humanitarian access to civilians in armed conflict and improve its redress process for terrorist lists.