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The impact of counter-terrorism legislation on humanitarian action: consequences, mitigating measures and limitations


In recent years, there has been growing concern among humanitarian actors, donors and policy-makers about the impact of counter-terrorism legislation on humanitarian work. There are numerous cases in which the work of humanitarian organisations has been affected by this body of (national and international) law, whether operationally in the implementation of programmes, with financial implications or, in the most extreme cases, with legal liabilities for the organisations and/or their staff. Although these rules have gradually incorporated clearer and more direct references to international humanitarian law (IHL) and the obligation of member states to respect international law when combating terrorist violence, the reality is that the impact on humanitarian action has been and continues to be very tangible.

In line with other articles published in previous reports that addressed the criminalisation of the civilian population and the negative impact of counter-terrorism measures on it, this article aims to provide an update on the main impacts of counterterrorism legislation on humanitarian work, as well as the ways explored to circumvent them and the constraints to ensuring that humanitarian assistance does not suffer from the consequences of counter-terrorism.

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