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Human Rights Violations In The War On Terrorism

1027 words - 4 pages

Following the September 11th terrorist attacks in which at least 3,000 people were killed, the United States has pursued policies that violate human rights in order to wage the war on terrorism. These policies include the adoption of new security measures, the poor treatment of captured fighters at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, and the willingness of the Bush administration to overlook human rights violations in other countries in return for their support in the war on terrorism.

When the enemy is faceless, as it is in the United States' fight against terror, there is a tendency to violate human rights in order to identify the perpetrators and anticipate further atrocities. Violations include detaining suspects without sufficient evidence or cause, denial of access to lawyer, and unfair trials. In addition to these violations, the United States has passed legislation that allows for the indefinite detention of non-US nationals facing deportation on national security grounds. This is currently the case with Mazen Al-Najjar, a Muslim academic who came to the United States in 1981 as student and later became a university professor. In 1997, Al-Najjar was detained for three years after government lawyers claimed that he had raised funds for a terrorist organization. A judge later ruled that there were insufficient reasons for concluding that he posed a threat to national security and he was released. However, he was placed back into custody in November 2001 when immigration agents claimed that he "had established ties to terrorist organizations." According to Amnesty International, no new evidence was presented to support this claim and he is currently being held in solitary confinement for twenty-three hours a day in a maximum security prison on the basis of allegations of involvement in terrorism (http://www.amnesty.org). From a democratic standpoint, these actions cannot be considered just or moral.

In addition to new security legislation, the United States also defies human rights standards through the treatment and legal status given to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. According to the Geneva Convention (1949), in which the United States is a party, a captured fighter is considered a prisoner of war if they are members of an adversary state's armed forces or are part of an identifiable military group that abides by the laws of war. Since most members of Al- Qaeda did not wear insignia or abide by the laws of war, they would probably not qualify as prisoners of war. However, Taliban soldiers comprised the armed forces of Afghanistan and should be entitled to POW status (http://www.hrw.org).

While the Bush administration decided that the Geneva Convention will apply to Taliban prisoners, it said that none of the detainees will be legally treated as prisoners of war, meaning there will be no effective change in their treatment or status. John Godfrey, a Toronto Liberal MP,...

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