How to respond to human rights violations committed in the context of the fight against terrorism.

No region of the world is exempt from violations committed in the name
of counter-terrorism policies. While counter-terrorism policies should aim
to increase the security and protection of the individual through the State,
the measures adopted by States to counter terrorism themselves often pose
serious challenges to human rights and the rule of law.

Some countries already had a structured anti-terrorism policy before
September 11, 2001, but 9/11 was a real turning point and an accelerator:
counter-terrorism policies multiplied and became harsher. Several
democratic States cut down on some of the fundamental freedoms
(freedom of expression, of assembly, of religion, etc.) and endorsed
torture as an alleged means to prevent terrorism, while non-democratic
regimes committed serious and sometimes massive abuses in the name of
countering terrorism, attacking the physical and moral integrity not only
of persons suspected of terrorism (summary executions, torture in secret
places, disappearances, etc.), but also at times against their own civilian
population. In addition such policies were and continue to be widely used
to legitimise the repression of the opposition, of independence movements
and also of human rights defenders and journalists. Harassment and
prosecution of journalists who report human rights violations committed
in the framework of the fight against terrorism hinder the possibility for
informed public debate on the question. Since September 2001 these
authoritarian regimes have found increasing acceptance of and even
support for such practices among governments of democratic States,
including financial support without proper checks and balances.

The effectiveness of a broad range of present policies for countering
terrorism is not only doubtful; some of these policies have arguably even
helped to reinforce radical movements, or have prepared the ground for
the emergence of future terrorists. The stigmatisation of certain categories
of persons - including illegal migrants - as well as the use of torture or illtreatment to obtain confessions; and the fabrication of trumped-up cases
of terrorism, all contribute to a growing radicalism.

Respect for human rights and the rule of law must be the bedrock of the
global fight against terrorism, States should ensure that any measures taken
to counter terrorism comply with their obligations under international law,
in particular human rights law, refugee law and international humanitarian
law. Still. some inter-governmental anti-terrorist agreements, particularly
regional ones, have a negative impact on human rights. The Shanghai
Cooperation Organisation, comprising China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan (with several observer States: India,
Iran, Pakistan and Mongolia) illustrates such a negative example: Under
the 2001 Shanghai Convention on combating terrorism, separatism and
extremism, member States undertake to prosecute persons targeted by
another member State (mutual recognition of terrorist acts) while granting
impunity to members of a partner’s law enforcement agencies in the case
of a crime committed in another country of the alliance. In other words,
asylum will be refused to a person who is wanted by a member of the
alliance, and that person will be extradited. At the European level, the
Framework decision on the European arrest warrant provides for a highly
speeded up procedure and reduced defence rights, and covers both terrorism
and unauthorised presence of aliens- a pernicious mixture. For the Human
Rights NGOs, the definition of terrorism in the June 2002 Framework
Decision is too extensive.

With the arrival of the Obama era and the hopes it has kindled, the language
has changed. Will the words translate to radical changes in policies? The
pursuit of the war in Afghanistan; the delay in closing down Guantanamo;
and the continued existence of secret detention centres, such as the one at
Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, already seem to indicate that American
policy has not fundamentally changed.

Against this background, FIDH and the IRCT decided to organise a Strategy
Workshop, in the framework of a joint EU-funded three-year project on
the prevention of torture in the context of the fight against terrorism. This
workshop took place in Yerevan (Armenia) on the eve of the FIDH World
Congress, on 6-7 April 2010. It brought together 25 local NGOs from 20
countries, including 16 NGOs that are participating in the implementation
of this project, as well as NGOs from other countries that are also tackling
this challenge (see list of participants in annex).

The objective of the workshop was to allow the NGOs to explain the
difficulties they have been facing in promoting respect for human rights
in the framework of the fight against terrorism, and ways to overcome
or circumvent them. It also provided the opportunity to further discuss
whether and how they envisage to continue working on this issue in the
future, what their expectations are and what kind of support they could
benefit from from international NGOs such as FIDH and IRCT.
The exchanges that took place during the workshop showed that the human
rights challenges in the context of counter-terrorism measures are similar
in all regions of the world to varying degrees. Participants also identified
concrete ways for NGOs to fight more efficiently human rights violations
perpetrated in the framework of the fight against terrorism. These possible
avenues for action are available at national, regional and international
levels (see last section on Recommendations).

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