Fighting Terrorism or How States Veer Off of the Human Rights Path

Press release
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On the eve of the Fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, George W. Bush admitted in a speech the existence of CIA’s secret detention program. This intervention concerns the transfer of 14 suspected terrorists from these centers to Guantanamo. He justified the existence of such detention centers, arguing that “it has been necessary to move these individuals to an environment where they can be held in secret, and questioned by experts”, who used. “alternative set of procedures". The FIDH strongly condemns this statement and reminds that it has always denounced the illegal use of force and secret detention, within the framework of the war against terrorism.

Since five years, specially, it seems increasingly difficult to obtain States not to alter the very nature of human rights when they attempt to adapt them to the dangers of terrorism.

Meanwhile though, the number, range and locations of terrorist attacks have dramatically increased since 9/11, and that in an unprecedented way.

FIDH has always strongly condemned terrorist attacks and understands that it is both the right and the duty of States to find ways to combat terrorism. However, FIDH denounces the clear emerging trend followed by States and which constitutes of increasingly diverting the objectives of the fight against terrorism and sacrificing basic human rights.

Security Council resolution 1373 (2001) called upon States to develop anti-terrorist legislations and measures. Yet, in developing their policies, States have been adopting laws and measures that violate human rights. Indeed, it cannot be denied today that anti-terrorism practices and policies have, in many instances, resulted in arbitrary detentions, torture, violations to the right to life, to the right to a fair trial by an impartial and independent tribunal, violations to freedom of expression, private life and property, or renditions of asylum seekers suspected to take part in terrorist activities to countries where they may face torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.

The United States, the most pro-active State in that area, and today mostly infamous for its Guantanamo Camp justified by the on-going “War on Terror,” have been repeatedly condemned by international treaty bodies for going too far in disregarding their international obligations. In this year 2006, both the Committee Against Torture in May and the Committee for Human Rights in July recommended that the U.S. immediately release or try the Guantanamo detainees, end the practise of secret detentions, renditions, and torture, put an end to illegal “harsh” interrogation techniques and inhumane treatment of suspected terrorists, and provide reparations to people upon whom they were applied (See also the Amicus Curiae filed to the US Supreme Court, by the FIDH, CCR and Human Rights Watch in the case Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld)..

The U.S. are not the only ones who have fallen into the trap of answering to human rights violations by other human rights violations. Many countries have been involved in such practices including in Europe, where some of them collaborated, specially in the case of CIA’s secret Flights. Worrying policies and instruments are being ratified in many other regions of the world, and they clearly lack full respect of States’ international human rights treaty obligations. (Also, see FIDH November 2005 Report: “Violations of Human Rights in Sub-Saharan Africa in the Name of the Fight against Terrorism,” in French).

FIDH strongly believes that anti-terrorism measures may, and should be, compatible with human rights and fundamental freedoms. In fact, all international human rights treaties do provide for derogations and limitations when States are facing emergency serious threats. Last October, FIDH issued a report entitled “Anti-Terrorism v. Human Rights: The Key to Compatibility” in which was demonstrated how this is true.

On this fifth 9/11 anniversary, FIDH calls upon all States, international and regional bodies, private actors and citizens to denounce disproportionately restrictive measures, to work for and demand the development and strengthening of effective international, regional, and national systems that would ensure that counter-terrorism measures are systematically compatible with human rights.

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