WORLD> America
US 'war on terror' seriously damages human rights
Updated: 2009-02-17 10:14
GENEVA -- The so-called "war on terror" launched by the United States following the 9/11 terror attacks has resulted in serious damage to the world's respect for human rights, according to a report released on Monday.

The United States "has adopted measures to counter terrorism that are inconsistent with established principles of international humanitarian law and human rights law," said the report, which was released by an independent panel of eminent jurists.

Related readings:
 China promises more efforts on human rights
 Praise for China's human rights
 China's human rights achievements praised

The report illustrated the consequences of notorious counter- terrorism practices such as torture, disappearances, arbitrary and secret detention as well as unfair trials.

It warned that excessive or abusive counter-terrorism measures adopted by the United States were having influence on other countries and causing them to follow suit.

"It was particularly disturbing to learn in many hearings that governments in other parts of the world are relativizing or justifying their own wrongdoing by comparisons with the United States," the report said.

The panel of jurists has based its report "Assessing Damage, Urging Action" on three years of investigations, which included 16 hearings covering more than 40 countries in all regions of the world.

"In the course of this inquiry, we have been shocked by the extent of the damage done over the past seven years by excessive or abusive counter-terrorism measures ..." said Arthur Chaskalson, chair of the panel and former chief justice of South Africa.

"The result is a serious threat to the integrity of the international human rights legal framework," Chasklalson said.

The eight-member panel, which was established by the Geneva- based International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), called for a concerted international effort to take remedial measures and restore long-standing international norms for human rights.

It particularly urged the new US administration of US President Barack Obama to take a leading role in restoring respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.

"Seven years after 9/11 it is time to take stock and to repeal abusive laws and policies enacted in recent years," said Mary Robinson, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who now leads the ICJ.

"If we fail to act now, the damage to international law risks becoming permanent," she added.

The report called for the rejection of the "war on terror" paradigm and for a full repudiation of the policies grounded in it.

It emphasized that criminal justice systems, not secret intelligence, should be at the heart of the legal response to terrorism.