Explanation of Position at a Third Committee Plenary Meeting on Human Rights and Terrorism

Mordica Simpson
ECOSOC Advisor
United States
New York City
December 17, 2018


Thank you, Mr. Chair. We are pleased to maintain consensus on the resolution Human Rights and Terrorism. We take the floor today to state fully our understandings regarding its text.

We understand OP8 of this resolution to refer to the importance of ensuring access to justice and accountability in accordance with applicable international law.

We also understand the reference in OP9 to states acting “in accordance with their obligations under international law” to mean that, if a state carries out the stated actions within its criminal justice system, it should do so in a manner consistent with its applicable international obligations; it should not be understood to suggest the existence of particular obligations to implement the actions described. Nothing in this resolution requesting states to take certain actions to counter terrorism alters states’ obligations under applicable international law, including decisions of the UN Security Council.

We understand OP13 to mean that states must comply with their international obligations, including nondiscrimination provisions of international human rights treaties to which they are a party, as applicable, when taking measures to counter terrorism and violent extremism.

With respect to OP14, we reject and disassociate from it as an unfair and thinly veiled attack against U.S. material support law. We reject its overbroad call on States to ensure that counter-terrorism legislation does not impede humanitarian aid, even if terrorists benefit from such activities. This could be read as exempting humanitarian activities from counterterrorism legislation and other measures designed to prevent the provision of material support and resources to terrorist groups and individual terrorists for any reason. While we support the role humanitarian actors should continue to have in alleviating the suffering of those who are displaced and otherwise victimized by terrorism, we stress that there is no obligation under international law that countries allow the unrestricted delivery of humanitarian or other assistance to terrorist groups or individual terrorists, or that countries allow the provision of support to terrorist groups or individual terrorists for any purported humanitarian or other activities they may pursue.

This language has no impact upon the binding obligation for Member States to prohibit their nationals or those within their territories from providing funds or other economic resources for the benefit of terrorist organizations or individual terrorists for any purpose, even in the absence of a link to a specific terrorist act, regardless of whether such support is meant to further the “terrorist,” “humanitarian,” or any other goals or activities of a terrorist or terrorist organization. It is unfortunate that the misleading and damaging language of OP14 is appearing in this resolution.

To all those who may seek to rely on this language in the future, we urge you to understand it as calling on states to ensure only that their counterterrorism efforts are implemented appropriately in a manner consistent with their international obligations and to use future opportunities to correct this language accordingly.

We are also concerned that the call on states not to hinder the work of civil society organizations in OP 28 can be similarly misconstrued, and we understand it to mean only that states must comply with their international obligations in this respect.

Further, we dissociate from OP30 given its calls to prevent speech that go beyond the narrow exceptions to freedom of expression permitted by our Constitution and Article 19 of the ICCPR. We are committed to cooperating to countering violent extremist propaganda and incitement to violence on the Internet and social media, but we believe the new language in the paragraph goes too far and could be used to support excessive restrictions on speech, particularly online.