Human Rights and the Reaction to  Terrorism

 Here is an excellent commentary on the response to the attack on the World Trade Centre from Professor William Schabas, formerly of Montreal and author of  International Human Rights Law and the canadian Charter. He has done some  excellent work on Israeli's violations of international law with its settlement  policies in the Occupied Territories.

  Human Rights and the Reaction to  Terrorism

  The terrorist acts of  September 11 may well have been an attack on democracy, as George Bush, Tony  Blair and others asserted, but they were no threat to democracy.   Democratic regimes have survived far worse.  It is the reaction to terrorism  that destroys democracies.

  Modern democracies have  perfectly adequate justice systems for dealing with terrorists. We track them down, catch them, bring them to trial and impose fit punishment. That is what the US and the UK did with those responsible for the Lockerbie crash,  and for the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.  It is what  the UN is doing for those accused of genocide and crimes against humanity in the  former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

 How much more healthy it  is for democracy that Milosevic be judged by an international court rather than  murdered by a cruise missile aimed at his home.  As for the two  Lockerbie defendants, one was acquitted by Scottish judges earlier this  year.  Had the advocates of assassination and summary execution prevailed in  that case, an innocent man would have been killed in the name of democracy's  war on terrorism.

 Some American politicians  now argue that criminal justice is inadequate because the events of September 11  were an "act of war".  But according to international law, we must know  what State committed it.  A group of individuals, even numbering in the  hundreds, cannot commit an "act of war".

 Perhaps those who harbour  terrorists may themselves be accomplices in an "act of war".  But let us  remember the last time this bold claim was made, in 1914, when Austria-Hungary  declared war on Serbia because a Serb nationalist had assassinated its  archduke.  It unleashed a cascade of belligerent declarations justified  by an earlier equivalent of article 5 of the NATO  treaty.

 We now look back in horror  and bewilderment at how an overreaction to terrorism, in the name of  punishment and retribution, provoked a chain of events that ultimately slaughtered  an entire generation of European youth.

 The anger and even the  thirst for vengeance of the victims and their families can well be  understood.  But any act of reprisal that takes civilian casualties or is  directed against civilian objects is quite simply forbidden by international  law.  It is a war crime.  To the extent reprisals are allowed at all, they  must target purely military objectives.

 The US seeks sympathy for  the thousands of innocent victims of this tragedy, and they have it.   Our hearts have been broken to see the agony of the bereaved relatives, and  an unbearably sad hole in a beloved skyline.  But international solidarity  should not become a pretext for promoting a US political agenda that has little to  do with catching the perpetrators and preventing future  crimes.

 Above all, if measures are  to be taken in the name of protecting democracy, there can be no room for double  standards.  Only two years ago, in another context, the US argued that a  civilian office building in Belgrade was a legitimate military target because  it housed a television station.  The US justified the resulting deaths of  civilian office workers as "collateral damage".  If those responsible  for attacking the World Trade Centre are ever brought to court, they may invoke  this precedent.  The scale of the killings was different in Belgrade, but the  principle is barely distinguishable.

 Let us recall, again and  again, that civilians must be spared in any conflict.  The right to life  is the most fundamental of all human rights.
 The right to life of thousands of  innocent civilians in New York City and Washington has been egregiously  violated.  But that same right also belongs without exception to civilians in  Belgrade, Baghdad and Kabul.

Professor William A.  Schabas, director, Irish Centre for Human Rights, Galway

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Ariane Brunet
Coordonnatrice - Droits des femmes / Coordinator - Women's Rights
Droits et Docratie / Rights & Democracy
tel : 514 283 6073
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 近代民主主義は、テロリストを処罰するに完ぺきな司法制度を備えている。この制度により、わたしたちは、かれらを見つけだし、捕らえ、裁判にかけ、至当な刑罰を課す。ロッカビー飛行機墜落事件、ナイロビ(ケニア)とダル・エス・サラーム(タンザニア)の大使館爆破事件の犯人たちに対し、アメリカ・イギリス政府はこのとおりの手順をもって対処した。(ロッカビー飛行機墜落事件とは、1988年、スコットランドのロッカビーで、PAN AM機が爆破され墜落した事件。2人のリビア人が犯人とされた) また、これは、国連が、前ユーゴスラビアとルワンダにおける大量虐殺と人道に対する罪で告発されている人々に対し、行っていることでもある。