Thursday, February 19, 2009

International Commission of Jurists Calls for Reforming Anti-Terror Laws

In a report released earlier this week, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) concluded that many measures introduced by governments to fight terrorism have been counter-productive and have undermined the rule of law.

The report, Assessing Damage, Urging Action, was written by the Eminent Jurists Panel on Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, established by the ICJ. It looked at anti-terrorism laws and measures in 40 countries, including the UK and the United States.

The document warns of the danger that exceptional 'temporary' measures are becoming permanent features of law and practice, including in democratic societies:

"Terrorism sows terror, and many States have fallen into a trap set by the terrorists. Ignoring lessons from the past, they have allowed themselves to be rushed into hasty responses, introducing an array of measures which undermine cherished values as well as the international legal framework carefully developed since the Second World War. These measures have resulted in human rights violations, including torture, enforced disappearances, secret and arbitrary detentions, and unfair trials. There has been little accountability for these abuses or justice for their victims. "

"The Panel addresses the consequences of pursuing counter-terrorism within a war paradigm, the increasing importance of intelligence, the use of preventive mechanisms and the role of the criminal justice system in counter-terrorism. Seven years after 9/11, and sixty years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is time for the international community to re-group, take remedial action, and reassert core values and principles of international law. Those values and principles were intended to withstand crises, and they provide a robust and effective framework from within which to tackle terrorism. It is clear that the threat from terrorism is likely to be a long-term one, and solid long-term responses are now needed."

The ICJ is based in Geneva.

More background:
  • Anti-terror tactics 'weaken law' (BBC): "The panel of eminent lawyers and judges concluded that the framework of international law that existed before the 9/11 attacks on the US was robust and effective. But now, it said, it was being actively undermined by many states and liberal democracies like the US and the UK. The report remarks upon the extent to which undemocratic regimes with poor human rights records have referred to counter-terror practices of countries like the US to justify their own abusive policies."
  • International Panel Says 'War on Terror' Has Diluted Principles (Washington Post): "The Geneva-based panel's conclusion, released Monday, were echoed by a former British domestic intelligence chief, who said people in Britain felt as if they were living in a 'police state' because of the government's counterterrorism actions. "

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:27 pm

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