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Anti-terror fight must not curb human rights, Robinson says in a joint statement

Anti-terror fight must not curb human rights, Robinson says in a joint statement

Mary Robinson
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, joined leaders of two European intergovernmental bodies in warning governments that measures to eradicate terrorism must not lead to excessive curbs on human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The appeal came in a joint statement issued in Geneva, Strasbourg and Warsaw by Mrs. Robinson and the two European officials - Walter Schwimmer, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, and Ambassador Gérard Stoudmann, Director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

"While we recognize that the threat of terrorism requires specific measures, we call on all governments to refrain from any excessive steps which would violate fundamental freedoms and undermine legitimate dissent," the statement said. "In pursuing the objective of eradicating terrorism, it is essential that States strictly adhere to their international obligations to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms."

Responding to recent worrying developments in some countries, the three officials urged all States to ensure that any measures restricting human rights in response to terrorism strike a fair balance between legitimate national security concerns and fundamental freedoms that is fully consistent with their international law commitments.

They also stressed that some rights may not be derogated from, under any circumstances. These include the right to life, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the principles of precision and non-retroactivity of criminal law except where a later law imposes a lighter penalty.

For other rights, any derogation is only permitted in the special circumstances defined in international human rights law. "The purpose of anti-terrorism measures is to protect human rights and democracy, not to undermine these fundamental values of our societies," the statement stressed.