The U.S. State Department’s “Rewards for Justice” anti-terrorism program violates the human rights of some targets, a group of UN rights experts have warned.
The program offers money in exchange for information about people designated by the U.S. government as terrorists but have not been charged with any crimes.
The U.N. experts accused Washington of denying many of the alleged terrorists targeted by the program of their due process rights, including the presumption of innocence and fair trial.
“Those rights entail the presumption of innocence and fair trial, and the United States is obliged by international law to respect them,” said Alena Douhan, the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights. “By offering money for information that can lead to the capture of these individuals, the program encourages others to participate in the denial of these rights.”
“Such offers are reminiscent of wanted posters that target fugitives from justice – fugitives charged with crimes or who have warrants for their arrest,” she added.
The State Department, besides offering money, also threatens foreign individuals it deems are involved in terrorism with sanctions if they don’t cooperate with the program.
“Making an individual carry out tasks against their will under the threat of a penalty for not doing so amounts to forced labour as defined by agreements made through the International Labour Organization, and the United States has accepted that definition,” said Douhan.
She urged Washington to review the program and develop alternatives that respect the human rights of the targets according to international agreements.
Under the program the U.S. offers up to $25 million to information that leads to “the arrest or conviction of anyone who plans, commits, aids, or attempts international terrorist acts against U.S. persons or property.”
The sum could go even further if the state secretary sees fit.
The department says that so far it has paid over $150 million to more than 100 individuals in prize money.