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Martin Scheinin (born 4 November 1954) was the first United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism in 2005-2011. He was selected for this position after serving for eight years (1997-2004) as member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the independent expert body monitoring states' compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. While on the Committee, he was known as a defendant of the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples and opponent of capital punishment, as well as the drafter of the Committee's General Comment No. 29 on states of emergency.
Martin Scheinin in 2009
|United Nations Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism and Human Rights|
|Preceded by||Post created|
|Succeeded by||Ben Emmerson|
|Born||4 November 1954|
|Education||University of Turku, Finland|
University of Helsinki, Finland
|Occupation||Professor of International Law and Human Rights, European University Institute, Florence, Italy|
Today he is a Professor of International Law and Human Rights at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, and an expert of international law, human rights and constitutional law. In 2010-2014 Scheinin was President of the International Association of Constitutional Law.
Scheinin was born on 4 November 1954 in Helsinki, Finland. In his youth he was involved in leftist youth and student politics, affiliated with the Finnish People's Democratic League (SKDL) and briefly also the Eurocommunist fraction of the Communist Party of Finland which had retained a critical distance to the Soviet Union, including by denouncing the 1968 occupation of Czechoslovakia. He has explained his conversion to a liberal as learning by the mid-1980s that "liberty is a higher value than equality".
Scheinin received his law degrees at the Universities of Turku (LL.M. 1982, LL.L. 1987) and Helsinki (J.D. 1991). Scheinin's doctoral dissertation was titled "Ihmisoikeudet Suomen oikeudessa" (Human Rights in the Legal System of Finland) and it had a transformative role in strengthening the country's commitment to international human rights and their constitutional protection.
Scheinin was awarded Amnesty International Finland's Candle Prize in 2011 for his long-term work for human rights, and more specifically for his work as a UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism in 2005-2011.
Scheinin received his doctorate in law from the University of Helsinki in 1991. Scheinin was professor of law for fifteen years in Finland, first at the University of Helsinki (1993-1998) and then at Åbo Akademi University (1998-2008) where he was also the Director of the Institute for Human Rights, before moving to Florence in 2008 to take up office as Professor of Public International Law at the European University Institute.
At the European University Institute, Scheinin's areas of research and supervision include public international law, human rights law, international criminal law, comparative constitutional law and anti-terrorism legislation. In 2016-2018 he serves as the Dean of Graduate Studies in addition to his duties as professor. He was the Coordinator of the FP7-research project SURVEILLE (Surveillance: Ethical Issues, Legal Limitations, and Efficiency), and earlier the Work Package leader in the research project DETECTER (Detection Technologies, Terrorism, Ethics, and Human Rights) under the European Union Framework 7 Security Programme. He was also the coordinator of the research strand GLOTHRO (Beyond Territoriality: Globalisation and Transnational Human Rights Obligations) within the EUI Global Governance Programme.
His professional experience also includes working for the Parliament of Finland, the Finnish Ministry of Justice and three governmental commissions that drafted amendments to the Finnish Constitution, including the 1995 fundamental rights reform. He has taught courses on human rights or counter-terrorism in many parts of the world, including at the University of Melbourne, University of Pretoria, the American University Washington College of Law and the University of Toronto, and for professional target groups such as judges, lawyers or prosecutors in Egypt, Latvia, Turkey and the Russian Federation.
Work with the UNEdit
Scheinin has worked with the UN on human rights issues since 1997, first as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and from 2005 until 2011 as Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism.
In April 2005, the UN Commission on Human Rights appointed "a special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism". This was initially a three-year appointment, to end in 2008, but was later extended by three more years, to end in 2011.
As Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Scheinin reported annually both to the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Human Rights Council. His reports have covered themes such as definitions of terrorism, the right to fair trial in terrorism cases, the impact of counter-terrorism measures on economic, social and cultural rights, the right to privacy in the age of counter-terrorism, the role of intelligence agencies and their oversight in counter-terrorism, and the identification of best practice in combating terrorism in full compliance with human rights.
Some of the reports have been commended by governments, such as those related to discriminatory profiling or the right to privacy in the context of counter-terrorism. On some other occasions, certain governments have been highly critical about the reports, such as Scheinin's analysis of the [gender] impact of counter-terrorism measures  and his proposals of a total reform of the terrorist listing by the United Nations Security Council. In a Fox News Channel interview, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch called Scheinin and his colleague Christof Heyns "jerks" for sending a letter to the US government concerning the circumstances of the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
As Special Rapporteur, Scheinin was a member of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) and conducted a number of country visits to assess the counter-terrorism law and practice of countries such as Turkey, South Africa, United States, Israel, Spain, Egypt, Tunisia and Peru. As part of the country missions, he visited prisons and observed terrorism trials, such as the Military Commission hearings in the Salim Hamdan case in Guantanamo Bay  and the Jose Padilla and Ahmed Ghailani trials in the United States. The country visits have often resulted in concrete improvements, such as the repeal of a contested Presidential Decree in Peru immediately after the visit in September 2010. As Special Rapporteurs can visit a country only upon the invitation of its government, Scheinin was not able to obtain access to countries such as Pakistan, the Philippines, or the Russian Federation.
Scheinin's mandate as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism ended on 31 July 2011. He was succeeded by Ben Emmerson, Q.C. (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), who assumed this mandate on 1 August 2011.
After his years as Special Rapporteur, Scheinin has remained active in issues concerning counter-terrorism and surveillance, as an academic, expert witness or in the media. His SURVEILLE project was endorsed in a resolution on mass surveillance adopted by the European Parliament in October 2015. He was heard as expert witness by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of US Congress concerning human rights in the North Caucasus, by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the Mapuche case and by the Parliament of the United Kingdom in the consideration of the Investigatory Powers Bill. His work as Special Rapporteur has also been cited by the European Court of Human Rights and, in the Yassin Kadi case, by the European Court of Justice.
In 2015, when ten years had passed since his membership on the UN Human Rights Committee, Scheinin accepted again to serve as pro bono counsel for the indigenous Sami people. The first case was Tiina Sanila-Aikio (President of the Sami Parliament in Finland) v. Finland (Communication 2668/2015) related to state interference in the 2015 elections of the Sami Parliament. In its Final Views, the Human Rights Committee established a violation of ICCPR article 25 (rights of political participation), both read alone and in conjunction with article 27 (rights of minorities), as interpreted in the light of article 1 (peoples’ right to self-determination). The general significance of the case is in its affirmation that indigenous peoples have a right of "internal self-determination".
Since 2018, Scheinin serves as a member of the Scientific Committee of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, its main quality assurance body.
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- Signatories to the Yogyakarta Principles, p. 31
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