Fighting Terrorism without Infringing on Human Rights

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This essay will explore assumption that we can fight terrorism without infringing upon human rights.

Prominent advocate for this assumption is obviously Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who urged states to “adhere to their international obligations to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms when conducting counterterrorism”. This has become a key component of UN-endorsed Global Counterterrorism strategy. Another key leader, supporter of this assumption former US President Jimmy Carter in his remarks on Human Rights Defenders conference said: "policy changes in the United States and other nations because of pre-occupation with the use of force as the sole means to combat terrorism ... led to an alarming erosion of the rule of law in established and emerging democracies and giving comfort to undemocratic governments that previously were the subject of intense pressure on their human rights policies."[1]

It is very important to investigate this assumption in order to prevent erosion of human rights established as our core values in globally accepted legal framework. Human rights at stake are usualy: “freedom from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, and freedom from torture, cruel and unusual punishment, unfair trials and invasion of privacy”[2] as emphasized by Alex Schmid. Another reason for analysing above mentioned assumption is to prevent executive CT bodies to indiscriminately target civilians or even specific groups based on religion or ethnic background under premises of counterterrorism activity. This can create dangerous precedents that can have impact on legal norms established to protect citizens from government’s misbehaviour. Also, serious human rights violation when conducting CT can further...

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..."Dealing with the Detainees at Guantanamo Bay: Humanitarian and Human Rights Obligations under the Geneva Conventions." Human Rights Brief 9, no. 3 (2002): 6-9, 13


[6] Amnesty International Official Report. U.S. Drones: Will I Be Next?


[8] Calder Walton, Torture and intelligence gathering in Western democracies, available at

[9] Educing Information: Interrogation: Science and Art - Foundations for the Future, Intelligence Science Board, available at

[10] Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Human Rights, Terrorism and Counter-terrorism,” Fact Sheet No. 32, p. 20,
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