Going even further than Resolution 1904, on March 4, the Swiss Parliament approved of a measure that would grant the government conditional opt-outs from UN sanctions, including removing the names of listed persons or groups if they have not been to trial within three years of designation or if they did not receive a fair hearing. Swiss Senator Dick Marty, a renowned human rights expert who sponsored the motion, said Switzerland could be a champion of basic rights. “Parliament gives another signal to reform the sanction system. I hope the decision will lead to further discussions in other countries and in the UN,” Marty told Swiss radio.

A UN resolution that addresses human rights violations caused by the terrorist listing process drew praise from the State Department’s chief counterterrorism official. Speaking to the International Peace Institute on March 1, 2010, Ambassador Daniel Benjamin called Resolution 1904 “an important milestone” that “improves the fairness and transparency of the [counterterrorism] regime.” He also called on governments to “build partnerships” with the UN and nonprofits who address political and social grievances instead of implementing restrictive and harsh sanctions that limit their capacity.

On Dec. 17, 2009 the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1904.  It updated an older resolution that had created the “Consolidation List” of those suspected of being involved with Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, or the Taliban. The listing process has been criticized for violating human rights, including the right to adequate notice and opportunity to defend oneself from being placed on the list. Resolution 1904 requires that before an individual or entity is listed the designating state must meet much higher evidentiary standards and prepare full case summaries defending the listing. It creates an Ombudsperson to hear delisting requests , and would require periodic review of the list to remove deceased persons and others who should no longer be on it. It also provides for expedited consideration of humanitarian exemptions.

“[M]ilitary power, intelligence operations, and law enforcement alone will not eliminate the underlying political, economic, and social conditions that help put so many individuals in situations where they might choose the path to violence,” Benjamin said. To overcome the challenges terrorism imposes, “our approach recognizes that our counterterrorism efforts can best succeed when they make central respect for human rights and the rule of law,” he added.

Benjamin said the United States’ approach to combating terrorism should involve “more holistic, coordinated thinking on these issues.”   Drawing on the UN’s Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy “with its emphasis not only on short term security and law enforcement measures, but on longer-term preventive ones as well,” Benjamin said that expanded engagement with nonprofits plays an “important role” in countering terrorism.

Benjamin also urged the UN to “encourage states to provide civil society with political space to allow it to be a responsible counterterrorism partner.” This can be done, he said, by not tolerating countries using “counterterrorism legislation to justify the targeting of dissident and other civil society groups, as well as to resist efforts to clamp down on freedom of association, speech, and assembly.”