MENA - Antiterrorism and human rights: 10 years of non-compatibility?

Several countries in North Africa and the Middle East use repressive policies and deprival of freedom under the pretext of fighting terrorism. Serious violations of human rights committed as part of the fight against terrorism have often become systematic.

The fight against terrorism, which is legitimate and necessary, often jeopardizes international human rights standards. Some countries go as far as to legalize practices which amount to grave violations of human rights. In Egypt, for instance, the state of emergency maintained throughout Hosni Moubarak’s presidency as well as the fight against terrorism have resulted in recurrent recourse to incommunicado detention and torture as well as the use of military and exceptional courts that did not abide by fair trial guarantees.

The fight against terrorism is also often a more insidious way to punish anyone who dares express grievances, especially of a political nature, or even dares to encourage respect of human rights and freedoms. Since the beginning of the mainly peaceful uprising in Syria in early March 2011, for instance, the Syrian authorities have been repeatedly blaming terrorist groups that, it says, seeks to destabilise the country. That is the latest illustration of a policy that has spread throughout the region. Another example. The Tunisian regime maintained its hold by waving the terrorist threat in case of a change of regime. And the fight against terrorism was used recently by the Yemen government as a shield to deflect the international community’s view of the violence against the peaceful protest movement that broke out in February 2011. Since the launching of its anti-terror campaigns, Yemen, “bastion of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula”, emboldened by western governments, especially the United States, has a dismal human rights record qith a heavy pattern of grave violations of human rights, not only against alleged terrorists but also against any person considered as a threat to national security.

For more information:

Egypt : Counter-terrorism against the background of an endless state of emergency (2010) (in English and Arabic)

Yemen : In the name of national security... human rights violations in Yemen (2010) (in English)

Tunisie : La torture en Tunisie et la loi antiterroriste du 10 décembre 2003. Faits et témoignages pour que cesse l’impunité. (2008) – rapport du CRLDHT et de l’ALTT (in French)

Maroc : Les autorités Marocaines à l’épreuve du terrorisme : la tentation de l’arbitraire (2004) (in French)

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