Regional seminar Ankara - Final Declaration

Upon an initiative of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and in partnership with the Human Rights Association of Turkey (IDH) and the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV), a seminar on the ‘Post September 11 era and subsequent attempts to suspend human rights and international humanitarian law in the South and East of the Mediterranean’, was held in Ankara, Turkey on 18-21 September 2003

Participants to the seminar included human rights defenders, lawyers, physicians and international law experts from Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey.

NGOs from other countries such as USA, Sweden, Yemen, international organizations and NGOs as well as governmental representatives were in attendance at the conference.


Conclusions

Bearing in mind the egregious terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the conference participants unequivocally condemn all attacks against civilians as criminal and unjustifiable, wherever and by whomever committed.

However, Participants denounce the use, in the post 11 September 2001 era, of the “war against terrorism” as a pretext for states to suspend, derogate or disregard the application of international human rights law, humanitarian law, including obligations of occupying powers, and refugee law.

Participants note that the lack of a universally accepted definition of “terrorism” allows for broad, vague, nebulous definitions at the regional and national levels. Such vague definitions enable states to criminalize the legitimate exercise of internationally recognized rights, such as freedoms of expression, association, peaceful assembly, right of access to information and the right to take part in public affairs.

Participants deplore all attacks on human rights defenders, including journalists, in the region as well as the targeting of vulnerable groups, including civilians in occupied territories, migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, and members of minorities.

Meeting in Ankara, and bearing in mind the lack of a satisfactory consideration of the issue, Participants express their particular and deep concern at the ongoing violations of the fundamental rights of the Kurdish population.

Participants also express deep concern at the continuing human rights violations of the Palestinians in the region.

Participants recall that the “counter-terrorism measures” must be conducted in full respect of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.

Participants stress that under international law, the use of force is prohibited under article 2 paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter except in case of self-defense or when authorized by the UN Security Council under Chapter 7.

Participants recall the right of people to self-determination as recognized under international law.

Participants welcome United Nations General Assembly Resolution 57/219 and United Nations Human Rights Commission Resolution 2003/68 on Protecting Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism and findings of the various UN human rights treaty bodies and Commission on Human Rights special procedures on the detrimental effect of counter-terrorist measures on the enjoyment of human rights.

Participants are further alarmed by the increasing use and acceptance of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment in the region and, recalling that torture is a crime under international law, emphasize that the prohibition of torture is to be respected in all circumstances.

Participants are alarmed by the increasing state practice of expelling, returning and extraditing persons in violation of the prohibition of torture or other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. Participants are concerned by the development of judicial cooperation agreements which fail to comply with international standards on the inter-state transfer of criminal suspect.

Participants are also concerned by the increasing use of administrative and arbitrary detention in the region, and in other parts of the world, such as in Guantanamo Bay. Participants are extremely concerned that such practices in the circumstances may constitute enforced disappearances, in violation of international law. Recalling that enforced disappearances constitute crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute of the ICC, perpetrators of such crimes must be prosecuted.

Participants are concerned by the increased resort to the use of exceptional jurisdictions in civilian courts and the establishment or the use of military courts for the prosecution of terrorism related cases, in disregard of international standards on the right to a fair trial and due process of law.

Participants also denounce the use and extension of state of emergency laws in some countries in the region in violation of international law as interpreted by United Nations Human Rights Committee General Comment 29, resulting in undue restrictions on human rights.

Recommendations

Participants urge states to comply with their international obligations in the field of human rights, humanitarian and refugee law while countering terrorist activities. Participants emphasize that full realization of human rights can only be achieved through the establishment and strengthening of a democratic society.

In order to prevent the use of torture and other cruel inhumane and degrading treatment and punishment, the participants urge states in the region to ratify as a matter of urgency, where appropriate, the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment as well as the Optional Protocol to this Convention. Compliance with these international obligations requires that states pass implementing legislation criminalizing acts of torture and providing adequate compensation and rehabilitation for victims.

Participants urge states to fight against impunity by taking all necessary measures to hold accountable perpetrators, including their accomplices, of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

Participants call for the lifting of state of emergency laws in the countries of the region, where such laws fail to comply with international human rights standards for derogation. They remind states that non-derogable rights should be respected in all circumstances.

Participants call for the abolition of exceptional jurisdictions in civilian courts and the use of military courts for the trial of civilians.

Participants call for the closure of secret detention centers in the region and elsewhere in the world.

Participants call for the abolition in all states of the region of the death penalty.

Participants call on the establishment in all the countries of the region of independent national human rights institutions fulfilling all the requirements set out in the Paris Principles.

Participants call on the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Council of Europe in fulfilling their respective mandates to pay particular attention to states’ compliance with relevant human rights treaties in their adoption of counter-terrorist measures.

Participants call on states of the African Union to ratify or accede to the Protocol on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Participants Urge the States that are members of the Arab League to redraft the Arab Charter on Human Rights, in collaboration with civil society and with the assistance of the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in order to meet international human rights standards, as recommended by the Beirut Declaration of June 2003.

As part of this process, States should ensure that the revised Charter incorporates effective reporting and monitoring mechanisms. These mechanisms should immediately conduct a review of counter-terrorist measures adopted in member states.

Participants call upon states that are members of the African Union, League of Arab States and Organization of the Islamic Conference to amend the Organization of African Unity Convention on the Repression and Combating of Terrorism and the Arab Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism and the Convention of the Organization of the Islamic Conference on Combating International Terrorism so that they comply with international human rights standards.

Participants call upon all the States of the region to accede to the Statute of the International Criminal Court, in order to repress and deter genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and adopt ICC implementing legislations at the domestic level.

Participants call for the immediate establishment of a universal and general mechanism to monitor anti-terrorist measures adopted by states to analyze and assess their compatibility with relevant international human right instruments and international law.

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