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Fight against terrorism must not exclude respect for rights, UN official says

Fight against terrorism must not exclude respect for rights, UN official says

Louise Arbour
The struggle against terrorism must be reconciled with the imperatives of personal safety and dignity, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has asserted.

"Respect for human rights and human security are inextricably linked," Louise Arbour, the newly appointed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, yesterday told the Geneva-based Human Rights Committee, which monitors compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Ms. Arbour cited as evidence various hotspots now under international scrutiny. "Afghanistan, Darfur, Iraq - these examples show us that the prevention of, and solution to, conflicts depends on the implementation of fundamental human right standards," she said.

The High Commissioner hailed the Committee's determination that the treaty is valid for troops serving in other countries. "Your pronouncements on the applicability of the Covenant to national contingents of international peacekeeping operations, as well as to multinational forces, and on the interdependence between principles of humanitarian law and human rights law, are important and timely," she said.

Ms. Arbour, who served most recently on Canada's Supreme Court, said her experience there corroborated this finding. "We concluded that the successful protection of citizens and the successful protection of their rights are not only compatible with each other but are, indeed, interdependent," she said.

"There can be no genuine personal security if rights are in peril, any more than legal guarantees can exist in an environment of fear and anarchy," she stressed.

The High Commissioner recalled that since 2001, the expert panel has examined "how anti-terrorism regulations may operate to undermine Covenant guarantees."

UN human rights bodies, she observed, provide "a crucial supplement to the work of the Security Council's Counter-Terrorism Committee."

Ms. Arbour took over her post from Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed along with 21 others in a terrorist attack on the UN's headquarters in Baghdad last August.