Anti-Terror Laws Prone to Abuse, Amnesty Says

Published on RINF (first on IPS), by Haider Rizvi, September 5th, 2008.

Numerous governments around the world are using anti-terror laws to suppress political dissent and civil liberties, according to a new report released by one of the world’s most respected human rights organisations.

Amid calls for increased U.N. scrutiny, in its report, the London-based group Amnesty International raises serious questions and concerns about the impact of the so-called war on terror on human rights and freedom of speech in many countries.

”There is a huge gap between governmental rhetoric and the reality of human rights observance on the ground,” said Amnesty in its report, entitled ”Security and Human Rights: Terrorism and the United Nations.”

The rights group released its report Thursday just a few hours before the U.N. General Assembly plenary was due to start biennial review of the ”Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy,” a documented adopted by the member states some two years ago …

… In a report submitted to the General Assembly at the time, U.N. rights officials emphasised that terror required concerted action by the international community, not legislative steps that deny individual rights to a fair trial, freedom of speech, assembly, or to strike.

”Nothing can combat irrational acts and extreme forms of violence more effectively than the wisdom embodied in the rule of law,” U.N. special rapporteur on human rights Leandro Despouy told the General Assembly.

As in the past, the General Assembly meeting Thursday failed to reach a consensus on a definition of terrorism. While some think of terrorism in terms of extremists acts of non-state actors, others insist that certain states are also responsible for terrorism.

The fight against terrorism, according to a Cuban diplomat who spoke at the plenary session, is also used as a ”pretext to justify interference in the internal affairs of the other states, the aggression, and the breach of the states’ national sovereignty.”

”[It's] a phenomenon that has to be combated by the entire international community, in an environment of close cooperation and with due respect of the Charter of the United Nations and international law,” Cuban envoy IIena Nunez Mordoche told the General Assembly plenary meeting. (full text).

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