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Assumption: “You Can Fight Terrorism Without Infringing Human Rights.”

1117 words - 5 pages

The fight against terrorism has always raised concerns that the methods used by States may infringe human rights. As one leading academic, Professor Martin Scheinin,[1] has said “Governments have often felt tempted to depart from … the fundamental rights of the individual when confronted with acts of terrorism….”[2]

Many leading world figures have stated that the fight against terrorism can be conducted without infringing human rights. For example, Ban Ki Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations, has expressed the UN’s “commitment to a comprehensive approach to terrorism grounded in respect for human rights and the rule of law.”[3]

A recent Council of Europe publication makes it ...view middle of the document...

Indeed, the State, through its agent, the police officer, could infringe the rights of innocent civilians if it did not take steps to protect them from the unlawful acts of the terrorist[5].

It is also important to note that the assumption is that it is possible to fight terrorism without infringing human rights, not that States actually do so in practice.

There is a lack of empirical data, i.e. research showing the prevalence of terrorism in countries with strong human rights records as opposed to countries with poor human rights records.

There is significant judicial support for the assumption that you can fight terrorism without infringing human rights. The European Court of Human Rights, a judicial organ which has produced the most cogent body of international human rights law in existence, has on many occasions found that robust actions by Governments in the fight against terrorism are perfectly lawful in human rights terms. In its judgment in a case against Turkey where a member of a terrorist organization was shot and killed by anti-terrorist police after he shot at them, the Court held that there was no violation of the right to life. [6] A similar finding was reached in a case where a police operation resulted in the deaths of three terrorists in their apartment[7].

Sir Hugh Orde, who led the Police Service of Northern Ireland for seven years, accordingly has many years of experience fighting terrorism in that jurisdiction. He has repeatedly stated his belief that human rights compliance “is not and never has been an impediment to good policing; indeed I see it as essential to support good policing.”[8]

However, we must also consider the evidence against the assumption. The International Commission of Jurists has highlighted the use of torture and other forms of inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment, discriminatory practices such as profiling and a general erosion in legality through certain governments contesting the applicability of human rights law. [9]

Scheinin has highlighted the actions of the USA and other States since 9/11 as “the worst-ever backlash against the promotion and protection of human rights since their post-Second World War emergence”.[10]

Ginval[11] has pointed out that, pursuant to a Supreme Court decision, Israeli law allows for judicially-sanctioned torture in certain narrowly-defined cases (e.g. “ticking-bomb scenarios where a detained person is believed to know the whereabouts of a bomb) and that this position is...

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