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Statement by Ambassador Byrne Nason at Arria Meeting on COVID-19 and Counter Terrorism

Thank you Mr. Chair,


We extend our thanks to Tunisia for arranging this important Arria meeting this afternoon, which Ireland is delighted to co-sponsor. We are also particularly grateful for the really excellent briefings we have had this afternoon


During the pandemic, as many of our societies were brought to a standstill, the terrorist threat continued to evolve. Although this has required adaptation of our CT efforts, our response must remain human rights-compliant, gender-responsive, and firmly grounded in our principles.  


Mr Chairman,


Earlier this year, the Secretary General warned that our world is facing not just a COVID-19 pandemic, but also – and I quote - a “pandemic of human rights abuses”. Increased human rights violations have manifested in a number of forms during this time; and one has been the disproportionate and heavy-handed use of security measures.


The misuse of emergency powers and the invocation or re-purposing of counter-terrorism legislation to respond to COVID-19 has been particularly concerning. The use of exceptional measures must be proportionate, necessary, temporary, non-discriminatory and subject to proper oversight. They should never be used as a pretext for human rights violations or to further restrict civic space. As countries seek to recover from the pandemic, these emergency or exceptional measures cannot become the new normal.


Targeting civil society actors is also wholly inconsistent with a meaningful- or indeed, I would say, effective - response to genuine terrorist threats. On the contrary, human rights violations can drive radicalization and contribute to the growth of terrorism and violent extremism.


During the pandemic, terrorists have sought to use the internet, as we have heard, to disseminate propaganda and misinformation for radicalization, recruitment and financing purposes. At the same time, the pandemic has provided them with a captive audience online, enhancing the reach of their narratives and ideology.


Effectively addressing the terrorist threat online requires whole-of-society and multi-stakeholder approaches, including with civil society and with the private sector. As an example, just last month, the European Union agreed new rules requiring online platforms to remove terrorist content within one hour.


Mr Chair,


As ASG Coninsx has said today, it is also important that we recognize how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the gendered dimensions of countering terrorism. For instance, victims of sexual and gender based violence, the majority of whom of course are women and girls, have faced difficulties in accessing vital support services, including mental health and sexual and reproductive health supports. In addition, criminal justice processes - central to accountability – have been delayed.


Covid-19 has exacerbated pre-existing structural inequalities, disproportionately affecting women and young people. In particular, the pandemic has threatened the hard won gains in areas like gender equality, greatly undermining women’s economic security.


It is therefore essential that inclusivity is integrated into the foundations of our post-Covid rebuilding process.


I conclude, Mr Chair, by thanking CTED for their reports on this issue and we very much look forward to forthcoming updates from Special Rapporteur Fionnuala Ní Aoláin. We reiterate Ireland’s commitment to work with partners to address the unique and complex challenges posed by Covid-19. As we strive to better understand its impact on our society, we must ensure that it does not undermine our shared goals and values.


Thank you, Mr. Chair.

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