Global perspective Human stories

Marking Human Rights Day, UN warns against infringement of basic freedoms

Marking Human Rights Day, UN warns against infringement of basic freedoms

Marking International Human Rights Day, United Nations officials and experts today warned that in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks against the United States, countries must be careful not to infringe on the fundamental freedoms of individuals.

In her message, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said that in the wake of the attacks and the international response to terrorism, the anti-discrimination agenda was even more crucial. "It should be an integral part of efforts to safeguard against any erosion of human rights standards that might flow as an unintended consequence of measures to counter terror," she warned.

Meanwhile, 17 independent experts of the Commission on Human Rights reminded countries that they had an obligation "to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms."

In a joint statement, the experts expressed their "deep concern" over the adoption of anti-terrorist and national security laws that might infringe on "the enjoyment for all of human rights and fundamental freedoms." They also criticized measures that have targeted groups such as human rights defenders, migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees, religious and ethnic minorities, political activists and the media.

"Public policies must strike a fair balance between on the one hand the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all and on the other hand legitimate concerns over national and international security," the statement said. "The fight against terrorism must not result in violations of human rights, as guaranteed under international law."

For his part, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed in a message released last week that in an interconnected world, where conflict in one country could have repercussions for another, the international community must keep in mind the lesson that widespread human rights violations in any country were a danger signal.

"As we unite to take action against terrorism, let us remember that the human rights we're defending are universal," Mr. Annan said.