Counterterrorism and human rights

Italy – Double standards – Terrorism lists

For several years now, ECCHR has been working on socalled terrorism lists. The main focus of this work is to address the grave violation of basic constitutional and human rights that arises by identifying individuals and groups in such a process of listing. Secondly, the ECCHR is working to scrutinize the political and social reaction to terrorism and the waivering of important constitutional achievements in dealing with certain actors. The ECCHR has initiated individual emblematic legal cases along with several discussions and debates.


ECCHR is supporting four individuals living in Italy who have been on UN and EU terror lists since 2003/04. Two removal request to the United Nations Security Council 1267 Committee ombudsperson were successful when two individual were taken off the list in May and June 2012. The 1267 Committee administrates the UN terror lists, which compile the names of individuals and groups against whom sanctions have been issued following their suspected involvement in terrorism. Italian courts have formerly acquitted all four people of any accusations of terrorism.

Nevertheless, they remained on the UN list as “former members” of an Italian terrorist group, which is suspected to have had links to the Organization al-Quaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (GSPC). As a result of the listing, all assets of the accused as well as those of their families were frozen and subject to strict monitoring by the Italian authorities. The decision on one remaining application is still pending. Similarly, applications put to the EU commission have been successful in three cases.


In one of the first terror listing cases, the ECCHR participated in the legal dispute of the Filipino politician and journalist Jose Maria Sison, who is living in exile in Holland. Sison was first added to the list in October 2002. The European Court of First Instance judged that the listing was contrary to Sison’s right to a fair trial as he was confronted by the sanctions without being given any justification and had no opportunity to respond to the accusations.

Reacting to this first ruling, the EU gave Sison a statement in which they explained very briefly their decisions and the reasoning for him to remain on the list. In a second ruling in September 2009, the European Court of First Instance declared the decisions of the European Council on the freezing of assets and Sison’s inclusion in the EU “terrorism list” to be void. Sison was then removed from the list, but was nevertheless denied compensation.

Topics (1)


Double standards

Decision makers in Western democracies often apply double standards when it comes to human rights. While the Global North will condemn and in some cases prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Global South, there is little appetite to examine the role played by Western politicians, military leaders and corporations in crimes against international law.

Show More