GOVERNMENTS MUST STOP THE TRADE OFF BETWEEN HUMAN RIGHTS AND SECURITY
Amnesty International's global survey of human rights in 2001 indicates that a number of governments jumped on the 'anti-terrorism' bandwagon and seized the moment to step up repression, undermine human rights protection and stifle political dissent.
'Governments have a duty to protect their citizens, but the past year has shown more clearly than ever that if human rights are sacrificed in the search for security, there will be no security,' said Amnesty International. 'The challenge to states is not security versus human rights, but to ensure respect for the full range of human rights.'
The year 2001 witnessed a direct challenge to long-accepted human rights standards by the very governments that campaigned for their establishment. International legal standards in practice for decades, such as the Geneva Conventions, were questioned during the Afghanistan conflict. The treatment of detainees in GuantÃ¡namo appears to have prompted some governments to believe that the inhumane treatment of prisoners is now acceptable.
A number of governments rushed through legislation and other 'anti-terrorism' measures in the interest of security. These measures include indefinite detention without trial, special courts based on secret evidence, or cultural and religious restrictions - sometimes creating shadow criminal justice systems. There was also a greater reluctance by governments to criticise others' domestic policies.
In the UK, new security legislation passed in the wake of the 11 September attacks opened the door to human rights violations. The Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act allowed for foreign nationals to be detained indefinitely without charge or trial.
'Our fears were realised as a shadow criminal justice system was created in the UK without the essential safeguards of the formal system, and up to nine people are now being held within it,' stated Amnesty International.
Whipped up by politicians more concerned with popularity than with respecting international human rights obligations, a racist backlash has generated a climate of suspicion and mistrust, exaggerated by the way in which foreigners are being portrayed as a source of 'terrorism'.
In the wake of the Middle East crisis, racist and anti-Semitic attacks against Arabs and Jews erupted, prompted by intolerance of religious, racial, cultural, and national differences.
In 2001, Amnesty International documented the following:
- Double-standards were increasingly applied to human rights as governments condemned human rights abuse of their opponents and condoned that of their allies.
- Governments jumped on the 'anti-terrorism' bandwagon to continue to justify human rights abuse.
- There was inconsistency, hypocrisy and discrimination on the application of justice. For example, the US introduced military tribunals to try foreign nationals suspected of 'terrorism'.
- The fires of racism were refuelled as governments restricted the rights of foreigners, particularly asylum-seekers, who have increasingly been portrayed as 'terrorists'. People were attacked in the USA, Europe, Canada, parts of Asia and Africa not for what they did but for who they were.
- Civilians were increasingly detained by the military and tried by military courts.
- Unaccountable security services increasingly targeted civilians.
- As civilian casualties mounted during the sustained US-led bombing campaign in Afghanistan, there were serious concerns over possible breaches of international humanitarian law, especially over the proportionality of force.
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