TERRORISM AND HUMAN RIGHTS

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Every human being is held entitled for human rights on the basis of simple characteristic of human being, and the same concept has also been recognized under the framework of international law in the shape of major human rights law instruments. Human rights are generally defined as those rights which a person possesses by his simple characteristic of being a human. Moreover, these are those rights which are available to a person and protect his interests, freedom, dignity and other rights against the interference and excesses of states and their agents. Major human rights include civil, political, cultural, economic, and social rights, and are universal in nature because these are available to all human beings, irrespective of nationality, race, sex or any other distinction.

Global Terrorism is a great threat and violation of human rights. The right to life is very significant for every person, every group of people, every class and every nation and as a matter of fact for all humanity. Terrorism and its impact on human rights have consistently been the most vital and intricate issue of the present times. Terrorism, in all its forms, is the greatest violator of human rights. Terrorism is a clear and present danger to world today; it strikes a fatal blow to human rights of innocent citizens. The main aim of such acts is not to kill or harm a particular person or persons but to create a sense of terror and fear among the people generally and de-stabilize the civil society. Terrorists take recourse to different forms of violence to subvert the system by acts of terror and violence perpetrated through various methods like taking hostages, hijacking, etc. vast majority of fatalities through terrorism are caused by attacks on unarmed civilians who are going around about their peaceful and lawful business. Extreme violence and terrorism have created a variety of challenges and dilemmas for human rights advocates.

The World Conference in Vienna (1993) was a significant landmark in recognizing terrorism as a threat to human rights. International terrorism is a modern form of warfare against liberal democracies and needs to be dealt with. The goal of these terrorists is to destroy the very fabric of democracy. Most of the times terrorists take advantage of the animosity and indifference of one country against the other. It is not unknown, nor a secret which cannot be shared, that some countries provide training, shelter and other kinds of logistic support to terrorist elements to cause terror in other countries.

Terrorism has posed a challenge not only to the State power but also to the national security. If we ponder upon the word Terrorism, it’s a relative term, which takes on a different meaning if we change its context. Terrorism has no absolute and globally accepted definition and its interpretation can easily be used or abused to suite particular needs. The adage that “one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter” reveals the wide range of variations in its interpretation but, if simply stated, terror is extreme or intense fear. It is a psychological state, which combines the physical and mental efforts to create dread and insecurity. The matter of terrorism is complicated. The terrorist of yesterday is the hero of today and the hero of yesterday is the terrorist of today.

The causes of terrorism can be Political, Strategic, Religious or Socio-economic. Various attempts have been made to distinguish among types of terrorist activities. The various types of terrorism are as follows.

  1. Ethno-Nationalist Terrorism: Terrorism motivated by ethno-nationalist and separatist aspirations became prominent only after the Second World War and dominated the terrorist agenda around the world for more than 50 years until religious terrorism came to occupy the centre stage. Ethnic terrorism can be defined, according to Daniel Byman, as deliberate violence by a subnational ethnic group to advance its cause. Such violence usually focuses either on the creation of a separate State or on the elevation of the status of one ethnic group over others. Tamil Nationalist groups in Sri Lanka and insurgent groups in North East India are examples of ethno-nationalist terrorist activities.
  2. Religious Terrorism: Present-day terrorist activities around the world are motivated largely by religious imperatives. According to Hoffman, the practitioners of religious terrorism motivated either in whole or in part by a religious imperative consider violence as a divine duty or a sacramental act. It embraces different means of legitimization and justification compared to other terrorist groups, and these distinguishing factors make religious terrorism more destructive in nature.
  3. Ideology Oriented Terrorism: Any ideology can be used to support the use of violence and terrorism. Ideology oriented terrorism is generally classified into two: Left-wing and Right-wing terrorism.
  4. State-sponsored Terrorism: State-sponsored terrorism or warfare by proxy is as old as the history of military conflict. Walter Laqueur notes that such established practices existed in ancient times; in the Oriental empires, in Rome and Byzantium, in Asia and Europe. However, state-sponsored terrorism on a massive scale reappeared in international politics in the 1960s and 1970s, and today along with religious terrorism, state sponsored terrorism has considerably altered the nature of terrorist activities around the world. One distinction of state sponsored terrorism from other forms of terrorist activity is that it is initiated to obtain certain clearly defined foreign policy objectives rather than grabbing media attention or targeting the potential audience. Given this character, it operates under fewer constraints and causes greater casualty on the target (Hoffman, 1998). State-sponsored terrorism was widely employed in Central Asia in the nineteenth century. Countries like Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya North Korea have been engaged in sponsorship of political violence of different nature in their ‘enemy’ countries.
  5. Narco-terrorism: Narco-terrorism is an interesting concept, which can fall in the category of either ‘Types of Terrorism’ or ‘Means of Terrorism’, depending on how it is defined. The term was first used in 1983 by the former President of Peru, Belaunde Terry to describe campaigns by drug traffickers using terrorist methods such as the use of car bombs, assassinations and kidnapping against the anti-narcotics police in Coloumbia and Peru. Though initially used in the context of drug trafficking related terrorism in South America, the term has come to be associated with terrorist groups and activities around the world and more so in the Central and South-East Asia. Narco-terrorism has been defined by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service as ‘the attempt by narcotics traffickers to influence the policies of the Government by systematic threat or use by violence’. However, it is also possible to view narco-terrorism as a means of terrorism or at any rate as a means of funding terrorism. As the term itself suggests, narco-terrorism combines two criminal activities; drug trafficking and terrorist violence. Narco terrorism is motivated mainly by economic reasons as it helps the terrorist organizations raise huge sums of money with minimum cost for their activities.

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Global Terrorism has been assuming grave dimensions, endangering or taking innocent lives or otherwise, jeopardising human rights and fundamental freedoms set forth by the United Nations. Terrorism and human rights cannot survive simultaneously. They are exactly opposite of each other. Human rights cannot at all be flourished when there is a constant threat of terrorism. It can be rightly said that the terrorist activities always come in way of human rights in that, the former aims at claiming lives of innocent people and the latter thrives for protection of the lives.

            Global Terrorism aims at the very destruction of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. It attacks the values that lie at the heart of the Charter of the United Nations and other international instruments: respect for human rights; the rule of law; rules governing armed conflict and the protection of civilians; tolerance among peoples and nations; and the peaceful resolution of conflict.

Global Terrorism has a direct impact on the enjoyment of a number of human rights, in particular the rights to life, liberty and physical integrity. Terrorist acts can destabilize Governments, undermine civil society, jeopardize peace and security, threaten social and economic development, and may especially negatively affect certain groups. All of these have a direct impact on the enjoyment of fundamental human rights.

International and regional human rights law makes clear that States have both a right and a duty to protect individuals under their jurisdiction from terrorist attacks. This stems from the general duty of States to protect individuals under their jurisdiction against interference in the enjoyment of human rights. More specifically, this duty is recognized as part of States’ obligations to ensure respect for the right to life and the right to security. The right to life, which is protected under international and regional human rights treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has been described as “the supreme right” because without its effective guarantee, all other human rights would be without meaning. As such, there is an obligation on the part of the State to protect the right to life of every person within its territory and no derogation from this right is permitted, even in times of public emergency. The protection of the right to life includes an obligation on States to take all appropriate and necessary steps to safeguard the lives of those within their jurisdiction.

In order to fulfil their obligations under human rights law to protect the life and security of individuals under their jurisdiction, States have a right and a duty to take effective counter-terrorism measures, to prevent and deter future terrorist attacks and to prosecute those that are responsible for carrying out such acts. As part of States’ duty to protect individuals within their jurisdiction, all measures taken to combat terrorism must also comply with States’ obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.