Terrorism, surveillance and human rights

Causing unimaginable trauma and deep division in the world geopolitical order, September 11, 2001 woke the world up to the horror of terrorism and the importance of fighting against this plague. September 11 also marked the beginning of a setback in people’s rights and freedoms. Ostensibly to fight terrorism, extraordinary and particularly repressive legislation was adopted in a large number of countries, even in democratic countries making it legal to arrest non-nationals for an undetermined period of time merely on the grounds of suspected participation in terrorist activities or having unproven ties with terrorist organizations. Many authoritarian states adopted similar laws which they also used to legitimize the repression of opponents and human rights defenders and to criminalize any other type of social protest.

In 2015, the temptation to strengthen protective measures has gained ground in the countries of Lebanon, Turkey, Tunisia, Egypt and France. as a result of the wave of attacks attributed to ISIS.

To fight terrorism, and more broadly in the name of security, many laws that attack freedom of expression and the right to a private life have been adopted and give extraordinary surveillance rights to intelligence agencies. Furthermore, companies around the world are developing, selling and exporting surveillance systems that governments and private parties can use to violate human rights and facilitate repression of all dissident voices, without fear of punishment.

In light of this situation, FIDH is calling for legislation to be repealed and for an end to the draconian practices that are being adopted or made stricter ostensibly to fight terrorism. FIDH is also calling for tighter control of the sale, exportation and use of surveillance systems, and is urging the States to guarantee the safety of citizens all the while scrupulously respecting the international conventions on the protection of human rights.

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