Human rights and terrorism are broad phenomena, not just legal problems, and the legal perspective is surely not
the only one relevant to an analysis of
their role in contemporary international relations. But the law can contribute to viable solutions, and awareness of the legal perspective is just as important for policymakers as other perspectives are for international lawyers.
WHAT ARE “HUMAN RIGHTS”?
rights are commonly understood to
encompass those rights to which
all persons are entitled without
discrimination by the mere fact of being human —that is, rights that cannot be denied or restricted on the basis of culture, tradition, nationality, political orientation, social standing or other factors, but must be protected in fact and given effect by law.
Broadly speaking, these rights include
the most fundamental preconditions for a dignified human existence. They are primarily asserted against government authorities (i.e., must be respected, protected and given effect by the government) but in some instances are also capable of assertion against other individuals in their private capacities
WHAT IS “TERRORISM”?
At its most general level, the term
“terrorism” denotes the (generally
criminal) use of politically-
motivated violence. It is typically
used to refer to “a special form or
tactic of fear-generating, coercive
political violence” as well as “a
conspiratorial practice of calculated,
demonstrative, direct violent action
without legal or moral restraints,
targeting mainly civilians and non-
combatants, performed for its
propagandistic and psychological
effects on various audiences and
However, no single or agreed legal
definition exists at the international
level. The term is frequently
employed to describe a wide range
of acts committed in response
to varying circumstances and
phenomena at both the domestic
and international levels. Its use is
OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Terrorism is not a single phenomenon. It comes in many varieties. Nor is it generated by a single “cause” but can arise from a variety of circumstances and motivations which differ (in nature, impact, and extent) from situation to situation. In many instances, those circumstances and motivations involve real or perceived human rights violations. Among the commonly-cited conditions that make terrorism possible or likely (“precursors”) are extreme poverty, social exclusion, and economic privation; religious and ethnic prejudice and discrimination; political repression and denials of due
process; communal alienation; and lack of education, employment opportunities and social services. Without question, political objectives and ideological orientation have frequently played important roles (i.e., desire to end foreign occupation or outside interference, to overthrow or promote a particular form of governance) .
At the same time, some measures to
counter or prevent terrorist acts can
themselves pose serious challenges to
the protection and promotion of human rights both for the perpetrators and for the population at large. The declaration of the “Global War on Terror” in the wake of
the 9/11 attacks, which led to the use of torture and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” and to such practices as “irregular rendition” and prolonged