Zeid Al’Hussein UN Rights Chief said on Thursday in Geneva that fighting Islamic extremism with disproportionate policies violated human rights.
Addressing the UN Human Rights Council, he said such move also undermined the values that had been holding together global security.
Al’Hussein said terrorist attacks could not destroy the values on which our societies were grounded – but laws and policies could, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said.
The Jordanian diplomat and rights expert also criticised policies implemented in Middle-eastern and African countries with extremist conflicts, as well as in Western countries that were reacting to terrorism and radicalisation.
He pointed out that various anti-terrorism measures constituted human rights violations, including arbitrary detentions, mass surveillance, discriminatory police practices and restrictions on free speech.
“There is real danger that in their reaction to extremist violence, opinion-leaders and decision-makers will lose their grasp of the deeper principles.
“This will, in a way, underpin the system for global security which states built 70 years ago to ward off the horror of war,” he added.
Al’Hussein said such policies fueled resentment, opened rifts within societies and provided propaganda tools to extremist groups.
He advised that governments should instead implement narrowly targeted policies to pursue the terrorists and cut off their money and arms supplies, he said.
Al’Hussein pointed out that many of the radicalised people who joined extremist groups such as Islamic State in Syria and Iraq were driven by inequalities and discrimination.
He challenged that governments must therefore tackle those root causes of extremism.