Words matter: human rights language in the United Nations' counter-terrorism law, policy and proceedings
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date31/07/2022
This thesis critically analyses the mobilisation of the language of human rights by and within three UN principal organs involved in counter-terrorism: The General Assembly, the Security Council and the office of the Secretary-General. The thesis shows that, in the context of counter-terrorism, human rights language is strategically deployed in order to assert or contest political power, legal authority and moral authority. Focusing on both the meetings and the soft-law output of these three organs, the thesis explores a number of ways in which the language of human rights is invoked in the context of the UN’s counter-terrorism work. Firstly, the thesis shows how the notion of ‘respect for human rights’ is invoked in order to differentiate between a democracy-loving, peaceful, civilised ‘us’ and the barbarous terrorist enemy, sustaining the narrative of the war on terror that was written by the United States and its allies in the aftermath of September 11. Secondly, the thesis explores the rhetoric of states of the Global South. These states frequently use the language of human rights in order to criticise the counter-terrorism policies and practices of the United States and its allies in the war on terror, highlighting the irony in the latter’s claims to be global defenders of human rights. Thirdly, the thesis examines how human rights promotion itself has, over time, come to be spoken of as a counter-terrorism measure. Finally, the thesis suggests that human rights provide a set of standards for evaluation of the conduct and decisions of UN branches. Thus, overall, the thesis charts and analyses the politics of human rights as it has played out in the UN’s counter-terrorism work over the past two decades, reflecting upon the implications of these developments for both international law and the human rights movement.