The Module examines key aspects of criminal justice approaches at the regional level, namely primary instruments (binding and non-binding) against terrorism, as well as existing human rights instruments that are important for articulating the principles and standards, which should underpin such criminal justice approaches, together with the human rights mechanisms that exist for enforcing such standards and ensuring rule of law compliance.
The Module examines ten regional organizations drawn from five geographical regions: African, inter-American, Asian, European and Middle Eastern/Gulf. Only those regional organizations most actively engaged in counter-terrorism matters are examined here, taking the existence of an anti-terrorism convention as the initial starting point. Therefore, some regional organizations which still play an important role in maintaining regional peace and security, such as the Gulf Cooperation Council, are not considered here.
The structure of the Module is to examine individual regional organizations within their geographical groupings where relevant, first considering 'hard' and 'soft' instruments against terrorism before discussing any human rights instruments and enforcement mechanisms relevant to criminal justice approaches in a counter-terrorism context. As was considered in Module 3 and is illustrated in subsequent Modules, even where no binding enforcement mechanisms exist, other 'softer' approaches, such as treaty monitoring mechanisms (e.g., human rights commissions, special rapporteurs), can still play an important role in exhorting and encouraging rule of law compliance.
There are both areas of convergence as well as divergence in the approach of different regional organizations compared with the universal instruments against terrorism, as well as international human rights law principles, which form integral parts of the international legal framework underpinning the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. This examination follows on from Module 4 where divergent regional definitional approaches to the concept of terrorism were discussed.
It is important to note that despite the very real threats posed by terrorism in certain parts of the world, and despite the more generic, global approach to counter-terrorism adopted by the international community, in some parts of the world terrorism risks and resultant counter-terrorism efforts have often been of lower priority compared with other pressing matters, such as urgent development needs with accompanying intensive resource requirements. This can have a direct impact upon the development, effective implementation and enforcement of counter-terrorism laws and policies.
Even where regional instruments exist that are not (yet) binding - such as in the case with low levels of some ratification of counter-terrorism instruments - these can still play an important law-making role in terms of progressing, clarifying and, in some instances, also codifying regional law. Closely related to this is an important principle underpinning international treaty-making whereby States should still act in a manner consistent with, and not undermine the purposes and principles of, treaties to which they have become signatory States even if they do not become States parties to such instruments for some time or, indeed, at all.
The sub-pages to this section provide a descriptive overview of the key issues by region: