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UN Compilation of Good Practices on Intelligence Services and their Oversight

In 2009, the UN Human Rights Council mandated the UN Special Rapporteur on the Protection and promotion of human rights while countering terrorism to, “prepare,working in consultation with States and other relevant stakeholders, a compilation of good practices on legal and institutional frameworks and measures that ensure respect for human rights by intelligence agencies while countering terrorism, including on their oversight.” (HRC Resolution 10/15)

DCAF was mandated to lead this consultation process and played the lead role in drafting the compilation of 35 practices, which were formulated primarily on the basis of:

  • An Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)-DCAF expert workshop bringing together members of independent oversight bodies, (former) intelligence officials, representatives of NGOs and academics from four continents. This event took place in Montreux, Switzerland in March 2010.
  • A DCAF background study based on comparative research drawing upon laws, jurisprudence and institutional models from almost 50 states, international treaties and jurisprudence, and reports of international organisations.
  • Responses from 30 states to an OHCHR questionnaire (A/HRC/14/46/Add.1).

Although the Compilation was ostensibly drafted in the context of counter-terrorism, the practices are applicable to all areas of intelligence services’ work, as well as oversight of such activities. The Compilation covers the following areas:

1)      The legal basis for intelligence agencies;

2)      Oversight and accountability;

3)      Substantive human rights compliance by states and their intelligence services; and

4)      Specific activities of intelligence services, including

  • Information collection
  • Use of personal data
  • Powers of arrest and detention
  • Intelligence sharing and cooperation


The Compilation (A/HRC/14/46) is available in the six official UN languages:

English (PDF)

Arabic (PDF)

Chinese (PDF)

French (PDF)

Russian (PDF)

Spanish (PDF)

Compilation of questionnaire responses from states (PDF)