This is an essay on “War on Terrorism and its Repercussion on Human Rights” for CSS, PMS, and Judiciary Examinations. Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. Find below the complete Essay on “War on Terrorism and its Repercussion on Human Rights”.
- Loss of life
- Arbitrary detention
- Extraordinary rendition
- Denial of right to petition
- Repressive laws
- Suppression of freedom of expression
- Invasion of privacy
- Sexual assault
- More cases of terrorism
- Emerging terrorist organizations
- Lack of establishing global peace
- Religious disharmony across the globe
- Role of civil society and media
- Protecting human rights
Essay on “War on Terrorism and its Repercussion on Human Rights” for CSS, PMS
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated interdependent and indivisible. Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the forms of treaties, customary international law, general principles, and other sources of international law.
International human rights law lays down obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.
Fundamental Human Rights
The principle of universality of human rights is the cornerstone of international human rights law. This principle, as first emphasized in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948, has been reiterated in numerous international human rights conventions, declarations, and resolutions. The 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, for example, noted that it is the duty of States to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms, regardless of their political, economic, and cultural systems.
All states have ratified at least one, and 80% of States have ratified four or more, of the core human rights treaties, reflecting the consent of States which creates legal obligations for them and giving concrete expression to universality. Some fundamental human rights norms enjoy universal protection by customary international law across all boundaries and civilizations.
Human rights are inalienable. They should not be taken away, except in specific situations and according to due process. For example, the right to liberty may be restricted if a person is found guilty of a crime by a court of law. All human rights are indivisible, whether they are civil and political rights, such as the right to life, equality before the law and freedom of expression; economic, social, and cultural rights, such as the rights to work, social security, and education, or collective rights, such as the rights to development and self-determination, are indivisible, interrelated and interdependent. The improvement of one right facilitates the advancement of the others. Likewise, the deprivation of one right adversely affects the others.
Over the centuries, people have struggled to conceptualize and safeguard universally applicable human rights. The Bill of Rights in England, the establishment of Habeas Corpus, the Constitution of the United States of America, the Declaration of the Rights of Man in France, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1945), and all of the United Nations conventions in the field of
human rights are significant benchmarks in that struggle.
Millions of people have worked together to develop the best principles of democracy and the rule of law. However, the recent threats posed by terrorism have led many Western countries to change their commitments to the ideals of human rights. “Since September 11, more than a thousand antiterrorism measures have been proposed in state and local jurisdictions across the nation, and already a number of them have become law. These measures threaten to criminalize speech and protest activities, limit the availability of public records, expand government surveillance powers, and promote participation in acts the legislature deems patriotic.”
These countries have found no other way of dealing with this problem but to limit the rights of their citizens to (among others) freedom, privacy, free speech, and access to lawyers. This, in turn, has given authoritarian governments the opportunity to further suppress and limit human rights in their own countries. Countries with no tradition of rule of law have often looked at more developed states as something of an idea, but, at the same time, have acted to preserve the power of their own leaders. Thus, the negative example of the more developed countries has allowed states in which democracy is nascent and the government is in most cases authoritarian, to defend their anti-democratic actions and stall any movement toward democratic reform.
But, besides the Geneva Convention, the United States and NATO have violated other international treaties and instruments such as the Protection of People against Torture and other Cruel,
Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, among others.” So, there is no international treaty on the subject that has not been violated by the United States and its allies.
War on Terrorism
There is no single clear and specific definition of terrorism accepted by all nations; even the United Nations cannot settle on one universal definition. The absence of a universal definition leads to
abuses and the selective application of the law in authoritarian countries. Yet there is a broad consensus, which dates back to the League of nations’ 1937 definition of terrorism as “all criminal
acts directed against a State and intended or calculated to create a state of terror in the minds of particular persons or a group of persons or the general public.”
The United Nations’ “academic consensus definition,” written by terrorism expert AP. Schmid and widely used by social scientists define terrorism as “an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by a clandestine individual, group or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal or political reasons, whereby in contrast to assassination the direct targets of violence are not the main targets.
The United Nations General Assembly Declaration in 1995 defined terrorism as “criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes“. 9/11 was the day that produced fundamental changes in the world. It was the day that United States President George W Bush declared war on terrorism and set in place the pillars of that war. The events of the preceding day, 11 September 2001, were truly appalling in their enormity.
They were tragic in the huge loss of life. They were extraordinary in their planning and execution. They were unique in each of these ways but they were not unique in themselves. They were not unique as terrorist acts. There had been terrorist acts before – hijacks, bombings, kidnappings, and murders. Certainly, no single act had resulted in such a heavy toll in death and injury but there had been single acts, such as the Lockerbie bombing in which many hundreds had died and there had been terrorist campaigns waged over years or decades in which thousands had died. Nor were the events of 11 September unique as terrorist acts on US soil.
What was most unique about the terrorist attacks of 11 September were not the acts themselves but the response to them, beginning with the US President·s response on 12 September. No war on
terrorism had been declared after the Oklahoma City bombing. There were no suspension of fundamental constitutional protections and no rush to legislate even greater restrictions. No indefinite
detention without charge or trial. No denial of legal advice and representation. No suggestion that torture should be permitted and authorized. The US President’s response on 12 September was unique, unleashing a global commitment to fight terrorism without regard for national boundaries or international law.
Worldwide sympathy for the United States and worldwide condemnation of terrorism followed the attacks on 11 September. There is no dispute about the nature of terrorism or about its intrinsic
evil. But there is a grave dispute about the nature of the response to terrorism, most manifest now in relation to the War against Iraq. Around the world, the war on terrorism has led to increased security, increased surveillance of the general population and of specific groups, and increased powers for police and intelligence agencies.
War on Terrorism and Abuses of Human Rights
The United States led the way with the mass detentions of hundreds of immigrants who were West Asian or North African in origin or Islamic in belief. Very few of these people were charged
with any criminal offense. Many were held for periods of many months on immigration grounds. They were denied their right to silence, denied access to legal advice and representation, prevented from contacting their families, and brought before closed courts to be dealt with in secret. The United States also led the way with new legislation to restrict human rights.
The most extreme expression of this new US approach is found in the situation in Camp X-ray at the US base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Captured Taliban and Al Qaida suspects are held there without the protection either of international humanitarian law or international human rights law. The US administration has said that the provisions in the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war do not apply to these detainees. And so those protections have been violated.
Detainees have also been denied the protection of rights guaranteed under the US constitution and the US courts have refused to intervene. They are held in inhumane conditions, subjected to
inhuman and degrading treatment and perhaps torture and denied due process rights, including the right to legal advice and representation and the right to be charged and tried openly before an
International human rights law itself permits restrictions on the enjoyment of human rights in emergency circumstances. Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
provides that some human rights may be restricted in “time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation” provided that the emergency is officially proclaimed and is notified to the
United Nations Secretary-General, that measures taken under the state of eme1gency is no more than what is “strictly required by the exigencies of the situation” and that the measures do not
discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, language, religion, or social origin.
Detainees in U.K. prisons have complained of long periods of isolation; lack of access to health care, the exercise of religion, and educational services; lack of exercise; obstacles to visits from friends and family; and psychological trauma associated with the uncertainty of when they will be released.
Concerns about the use of torture have also arisen in connection with other aspects of the U.K.’s participation in the international campaign against terrorism. In December 2002, the U.S. forces were using “stress and duress” techniques in their interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects detained on the island of Diego Garcia-part of British-held Indian Ocean Territory resulted in urgent appeals to the U.K. government to ensure that the detainees’ human rights were upheld.
The detainees were originally held in makeshift open-air facilities with chain-link walls until moved to a newly constructed facility on April 28, 2002. According to press reports, the detainees spend twenty-four hours a day in small single-person cells, except for two fifteen-minute periods of solitary exercise a week, as well as interrogation sessions. About eighty of the prisoners were held in special high-security cells with steel walls that prevented them from communicating with other prisoners.
The United States has refused to recognize the applicability of the Geneva Conventions to any of the Afghan war or al-Qaeda detainees held at Guantanamo or elsewhere, including captured members of the Taliban armed forces, although it has insisted that it treats them humanely.
It refused to permit competent tribunals to determine whether any of the detained combatants were entitled to prisoner of war status. It has also refused to abide by principles of international human rights law with regard to these detainees, asserting, in effect, that no legal regime applies to them and that in the war against terrorism, the United States may hold such combatants for as long as it chooses.
The Guantanamo detainees remain without a legal forum in which they can challenge their detention; a federal judge ruled on July 30, 2002, that U.S. federal courts do not have jurisdiction to hear constitutional claims brought by aliens held by the United States outside U.S. sovereign territory.
Human Rights Watch has documented the mistreatment of non-citizens detained in the September 11 investigation, including custodial interrogations without access to counsel, prolonged
detention without charge, executive decisions overriding judicial orders to release detainees on bond during immigration proceedings, and unnecessarily restrictive conditions–including solitary confinement–under which some “special interest” detainees were held.
Guantanamo Bay Detainees Since September 11, the United States has transferred about 650 men captured in connection with the Afghan war or who are suspected of links to al-Qaeda to the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. U.S. officials apparently chose the site both for security purposes as well as because they believed that U.S. courts would refuse to exercise jurisdiction over it a belief that has been borne out in court cases.
The laws are also not justified if they are a disproportionate response to the emergency and if they discriminate. Yet these laws are being applied almost exclusively against people of West Asian
and North African background and those who are Muslim.
The war on terrorism has generated more general concerns beyond concern for the specifics of legislation proposed or enacted in its name. The first is a concern about the new debate on torture.
Under international law, torture is one of the most serious violations of human rights. It is considered unacceptable anywhere in any circumstances. It is one of the rights that can never be restricted, even in “time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation”.
Usual methods are being used in interrogation under the present circumstances but they deny that these measures constitute torture. Past and present intelligence agents have admitted that torture is used and argued that its use should be extended as a means of obtaining information about terrorists and about potential terrorist attacks. Amnesty International (2001) also condemns the use of torture and remains concerned over the well-being of detainees, especially in light of reports that many of those arrested in the wake of the attacks were denied prompt access to lawyers or relatives.
In its comprehensive investigation on the mistreatment of post-September, 11th detainees, Human Rights Watch (2002) chronicles civil liberties and human rights infractions. Among the most serious problems is a denial of access to counsel, custodial interrogations without access to counsel, abusive interrogations, arbitrary detention, detaining non-citizens without charge, detainees
denied release on bond or held on extraordinarily high bond, and continued detention despite a release order. Investigations also reveal detainees subjected to harsh conditions of confinement,
compounded by verbal and physical abuse, denied adequate medical attention, and housed with suspected or convicted criminals.
A leading US academic, an internationally recognized human rights expert, has said that the elimination of torture is impossible and perhaps even undesirable when terrorist attacks are possible
and so, he has said, the law should seek not to prohibit torture but to control it by providing for its use to be authorized only at the highest level of government and only subject to measures of public accountability. This proposal is totally unacceptable because torture is totally unacceptable.
Some police and military officers have argued against torture on pragmatic grounds, that information obtained under torture is inherently unreliable and so acting on it may lead to grave error.
That’s true. But far more important is the principle that torture is never acceptable, that it is always a serious violation of a fundamental human right.
The War on Terrorism then has resulted in challenges to some of the most deeply held moral and ethical values and the observance of some of the most fundamental human rights. And now we have the War against Iraq.
The War on Terrorism is a response to actual events, not only the attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States but also terrorist attacks before and after that in many parts of the world, including the Bali bombing. Although there is ·sound debate about the nature of the response and its proportionality, there is no doubt that a response is legitimate and lawful.
Two recent events account for the hypocritical duality with which some states are manipulating the concept of human rights well into the 21st century. In the first place, on February 7, 2007, the
International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance that criminalizes the use of secret prisons was signed in Paris by some sixty countries (most of them from Europe, but not the United States. And a few days later, on February 14, a report accusing that same European government of complicity with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), in operations involving clandestine kidnappings, was approved at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
According to this report, between 2001 and 2005, CIA aircrafts made no less than 1,245 stopovers at European airports, often carrying suspects who were victims of “enforced disappearance”, being clandestinely sent to Guantanamo or prisons in allied countries (Egypt, Morocco) where torture is a regular practice.
Effects of Violation of Human Rights
Among the most innovative and the most shocking of the many violations to which the war on terror has given rise is the practice of ‘extraordinary rendition’. Reliable reports are increasing of the
kidnapping and secret transfer of individuals without any process of law to various locations and/or to third states for what has been referred to as detention or torture by proxy. This is straightforwardly a violation of many human rights, on account not only of its eventual purpose – torture, arbitrary detention, or other serious violation – but also due to the procedural arbitrariness that attends it. and, most insidiously, the effect of removing the person from the protection of the law and withholding information from that person and his or her family. The latter characteristic has led to this practice being described as enforced disappearance.
The ‘terrorism’ label has been applied liberally since 9/11, without clarity as to its scope (the term being undefined or ill-defined), often without due process, and” with serious consequences for those thus branded or others associated with them. Perhaps the most obvious manifestation of this phenomenon is the various terrorism ‘lists’ established at the national, regional, and (under the Security Council’s watchful eye) international level.
While systems and safeguards vary, the problem with these lists is often the lack of transparency around the reasons for inclusion in them and the lack of meaningful opportunity to challenge such inclusion. Little by little, litigation is seeking to call governments to account for decisions made in this respect and to provide a degree of judicial oversight at least to temper an otherwise opaque and arbitrary practice.
In many cases the judiciary has shown its reluctance to make determinations that may impact security, refusing, for example, to question executive assessments of the existence of an emergency. But when particular practices H. Duffy – Human rights litigation and the ‘war on terror ‘ have come under scrutiny, the courts in diverse systems have often and increasingly proved themselves willing – in some cases promptly, in other cases after the painstaking process and only as a matter_of genuine last resort – to criticize the legitimacy, necessity or proportionality of particular measures.
The war against Iraq, on the other hand, is presented as a pre-emptive war under a new doctrine enunciated by the present US administration. Unfortunately for the United States, international law does not recognize this new doctrine of pre-emption. International Jaw permits resort to war in two circumstances only, when authorized by the United Nations Security Council in response to a declared threat to international peace and security and when there is an actual attack or an immediate threat of an actual attack but then only until such time as the Security Council takes charge of the situation.
Neither of these conditions has been met and so the war against Iraq is unlawful. For instance, the arguments stating that Saddam Hussein’s regime was hiding weapons of mass destruction and had been a partner with AlQaeda in the 9/11 attacks were never proved, and even so, the Bush administration invaded Iraq, overthrew Hussein, and set up a “democratic” government serving US interests.
43 international lawyers, almost every significant international lawyer in the country, made a joint statement that “the initiation of war against Iraq by the self-styled ‘coalition of the willing’ would be a fundamental violation of international Jaw”. More recently the top international lawyers in the United Kingdom issued a similar joint statement. In the United States, individual international lawyers have made their own statements, almost all again expressing the view that this war is unlawful. This is far more than an academic argument when thousands of lives are at stake.
The government of the United States does not care whether the war is lawful or not. They are determined to wage war and all this legal debate is merely a distraction to them. Had they been sincere in their protestation that the war is lawful, in the face of firm views to the contrary by the acknowledged experts, these governments would have sought the opinion of the one body established with authority to give a conclusive view, the International Court of Justice. The UN Charter establishes the Court to decide issues like these.
The most urgent issue now is the actual conduct of the war. International humanitarian law governs how nations and their armed forces should conduct themselves during the war. All the nations in the US coalition are bound by international humanitarian law and so must ensure that civilians are not deliberately targeted, that actions that might endanger civilians are avoided, that prisoners of war are treated properly, and so on.
The war on terrorism has killed many more people than the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. The war against Iraq will kill many times that number again. The truth is that, according to
various reports including one by National Intelligence Council revealed by The New York Times on 24 September 2006, not only has the invasion and occupation of Iraq (with all its abuses) failed in halting international terrorism but, on the contrary, it has contributed to fuel terrorism worldwide and to strengthen Islamic radicalism toward the West.
Human security is a major preoccupation in today’s world. That is understandable. Ensuring security for every human being around the world is one of the major challenges facing us. In addressing these concerns it is needed to enhance the search for common ground. Human rights provide that common ground. The government needs to build a commitment to observing human rights law, not violating it.
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