Experts Discuss the Effectiveness and Legality of Counterterrorism Measures

17 November 2020

At an expert meeting – online due to the COVID19 pandemic – leading international humanitarian and human rights legal scholars, social scientists, and practitioners discussed the legal, scientific, and practical aspects of counterterrorism measures, with a focus on their effectiveness, side effects, and legality.

Organized by the Counter-Terror Pro LegEm Project and the Geneva Academy, the meeting examined the effectiveness of measures to prevent and counter terrorism – closure of places of worship, vague prohibitions of ‘glorification of terrorism’, stop-and-search operations – and their impact on human rights.

‘To determine the legality, necessity, and proportionality of these measures under international human rights law, it is useful to evaluate their effectiveness and potential side-effects using social science methods and research on terrorism and violent extremism. This is precisely what we’ve done during this meeting’ underlines Professor Gloria Gaggioli, Director of the Geneva Academy.

The meeting’s findings will be synthesized and used to draft a policy guidance document on how to devise and monitor counterterrorism measures to ensure their effectiveness and conformity with international human rights law.

Surveillance camera

The Counter-Terror Pro LegEm Project.

Counter-Terror Pro LegEm is a four-year research project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and led by our Director, Professor Gloria Gaggioli.

The project combines legal analysis with social science research to examine the effectiveness of counterterrorism measures and their effects on human rights. It also analyses the structure of terrorist networks such as Al Qaeda or the Islamic State and sees whether they qualify as ‘organized armed groups’ for the purpose of international humanitarian law.

The project’s outputs will include an empirical analysis of contemporary counter-terrorism measures with a thorough legal analysis under human rights law and international humanitarian law, as well as the above-mentioned policy guidance for states and international organizations.

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