How Can States Counter Terrorism While Protecting Human Rights?

21 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2019

See all articles by Fionnuala D. Ni Aolain

Fionnuala D. Ni Aolain

University of Minnesota Law School; The Queens University of Belfast

Date Written: July 23, 2019


For the past two decades countering terrorism has been at the forefront of the foreign policy priorities of democracies. This has coincided with the growth of human rights narratives as a fundamental feature of such democracies. However, a number of counterterrorism measures, such as the use of unlawful detention at Guantanamo Bay, confirmation of ‘black sites’ being used for interrogation and extended state surveillance powers, have raised serious human rights concerns. How do states ensure strong national security while protecting the fundamental human rights they claim as the bedrock of their society? How do states balance regulation of terrorism when the damage that can be done to political and legal systems by terrorism itself as well as by counter-terrorism measures which violate basic human rights norms are exceptional. It is to these challenges that the lecture will turn. I will address four myths that have dominated the post 9/11 terrorism and human rights landscape demonstrating that security need not be sacrificed for human rights (and vice versa), and that the relationship between rights and security is not necessarily one of tension but rather one of mutual capacity-building and necessity.

Keywords: Terrorism, Human Rights, Rule of Law, Security, United Nations

Suggested Citation

Ni Aolain, Fionnuala D., How Can States Counter Terrorism While Protecting Human Rights? (July 23, 2019). 45 Ohio Northern University Law Review 389 (2019), Available at SSRN:

Fionnuala D. Ni Aolain (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota Law School ( email )

229 19th Ave. So.
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States
612-624-2318 (Phone)
612-625-2011 (Fax)

The Queens University of Belfast ( email )

University Square
Belfast, County Down
Northern Ireland

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