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Protecting human rights while waging war on terror

Protecting human rights while waging war on terror

Author: PC Sharma
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: February 11, 2009
URL:
http://www.dailypioneer.com/155561/Protecting-human-rights-while-waging-war-on-terror.html

The human rights framework does not impede or impair the fight against terrorism. To the contrary, it empowers civil society to assert its rights, says PC Sharma

The justification of terrorist activities by certain quarters on the basis of religion or ideology has been deprecated in clear terms by the United Nations Declaration of Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism. Further, the UN resolutions adopted under the title "Human Rights and Terrorism" have "unequivocally condemned all acts, methods and practises of terrorism regardless of their motivation in all its forms and manifestations wherever and by whosoever committed. It is now quite clear that the international community must enhance cooperation at the regional and international level in the fight against terrorism in accordance with relevant instruments.

But here it needs to be stressed that while the fight against terrorism has to be waged keeping in view international covenants and declarations, the strategies have to be formulated keeping the indigenous environment - including local laws and statutes - in mind. Indigenous complexion of a counter-terrorism programme, therefore, should not be viewed as a deviation from the international code but in conformity with its basic charter.

There is a fallacious impression that the human rights framework impedes or impairs the fight against terrorism. To the contrary, the framework envisions rule of law to empower civil society to assert its rights, to instil confidence in the population in just and fair governance and enhancing cooperation among the diverse groups avowing different religions and ideologies. The rule of law is the loadstar when citizens encounter depredations being committed on basic human rights.

India is one of the few countries which has faced onslaught of terrorism. But today there is world-wide consensus for enacting effective anti-terrorism laws. Our Parliament has enacted two such legislations following the recent Mumbai terrorist attack - National Investigation Agency Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act. While these laws are in conformity with the global demand for anti-terrorism legislations, essentially these would constitute indigenous responses to a domestic situation.

While piloting these two Bills in Parliament, the Home Minister forcefully stressed that human rights of citizens would not be lost sight of while implementing these Acts. This is heartening in the context of excessive and unplanned force used by security forces that led to human rights violations in the past. It undermines the rule of law, weakens the society and fetches the country disrepute and criticism.

Adherence to international conventions and covenants on human rights norms is necessary. But similar observance of international treaties and protocols for extending cooperation in the area of crime investigations and prosecutions and in sharing intelligence is also vital to combating terrorism, not only in the post-event scenario but also in making preventive strategies. For this a global dialogue, at least amongst the affected countries, is of supreme importance as this menace cannot be fought in isolation.

The National Human Rights Commission of India has provided a platform for redressal of grievances to the victims of human rights violations. Ever since its inception it has guided all endeavours aimed at protecting human rights and generating national awareness about the rights of the citizens. The range of Protection of Human Rights Act is wide enough as it encompasses basic human rights, cultural economic and social rights.

After independence, the enactment of certain powerful legislations has often invited public criticism or judicial rebuke for their alleged abuses of human rights. Lack of sufficient safeguards to constrain their misuse and absence of uniformity in their application has led to serious problems.

The world community has the responsibility and obligation in unearthing terrorist groups, extending cooperation in investigations, and strengthening each other's efforts in maintaining the rule of law.

The time ahead will bring issues relating to the dignity and worth of human beings to the centre of social, political and ethical agenda. In the 21st century, the focus of human rights and human development will inevitably engage our attention. This task can be performed only by a joint and united endeavour by all citizens.

- The writer, a former decorated police officer, is a member of the National Human Rights Commission. Concluded.


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