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US ‘Rewards for Justice’ programme violating human rights

Independent UN human rights experts have warned that the so-called ‘Rewards for Justice’ programme in the United States is violating the human rights of some of the individuals it targets.

Operated by the US State Department, the counter terrorism programme offers money for information on people outside the country, who the US government has designated as being associated with terrorism, although they have not been charged with any crimes.  

The programme also offers financial incentives to foreigners who claim to have terrorist ties, if they cooperate with US authorities. Offering money to foreign individuals, allegedly involved in or associated with US-deemed terrorist activity – including Iran, Cuba and other States – comes with the threat of sanctions should they not cooperate with Washington’s demands.  

According to the UN experts, these sanctions violate a number of rights, including their right to work, freedom of movement, reputation and life. Moreover, there is no possibility of accessing justice to protect these rights.

Alena Douhan, Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures said that pushing ‘an individual [to] carry out tasks against their will under the threat of a penalty’ amounts to forced labour, as defined by International Labour Organization agreements.

Douhan urged the US Government to review its Rewards for Justice Programme ‘to ensure that its activities are aligned with international law’, having received no response from the US Government, despite raising the issue.

She said: “Fighting terrorism is obviously necessary, but it shall only be done with due respect to human rights, international humanitarian and refugee law, in line with the UN Global Strategy on Counter-Terrorism.”

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. Their positions are honorary, and they are not paid for their work.

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