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War on Terrorism Is Contributing Towards

Growing Abuse Of Human Rights

What have been the costs of war on terrorism in
human and economic terms? How has the war
changed the social and political landscape of the
countries where it has been waged? What is likely
to be the long-term economic effect of the war?
What have been the public health consequences of
the war? Were and are there any less costly and
more effective alternative ways to prevent further
terror attacks? How has, and to what extent, the
war contributed to the abuse of human rights?
These are some frequently asked questions that
the war in the course of its continuity has raised in
minds of every sane person.
The war that began in 2001 proved tremendously
painful for millions of people across the world,
especially in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, and
the United States. Each additional month and year
of war adds to that toll. Moreover, the human costs
of this war will reverberate for years to come in
each of the affected country. The war on terror, in
fact, proved a great misfortune on the lives of its
victims. Civilians have been killed unjustly and
tortured without any reason. Evidently, behind the
facade of war on terrorism, International Law is
widely being disregarded; oppositions are being
repressed, not to talk of humiliation the values and

rights have suffered at the hands of imperial

regimes. It is safe to assume that the commencing
of the war on terrorism virtually resulted in the end
of the sanctity attached to human rights.
The war on terrorism is not like any other kind of
war. The enemy, terrorism, is not a territorial state,
nation or government. There is no opposite number
to negotiate with. There is no one on the other side
to call a truce or declare a ceasefire, no one among
the enemy authorized to surrender. The War on
Terror officially began on October 7, 2001 and was
spurred by the attack on the World Trade Center of
the United States on September 11, 2001.
The War on Terror has led, in its wake, to grave
human rights violations and, in response, to a
growing volume of human rights litigations. Certain
quarters allege that the War on Terror has been
exploited by Western governments to reduce civil
liberties and take away basic human rights.
The war on terrorism came up with extensive
violations of civil and political rights that still
continue to occur in the world, with such incidents
as demonstrations, shootings, torture, hostagetakings, killings and so on. Political participation
and decision-making in the affected countries
especially Iraq and Afghanistan remain seriously
impaired by sectarian and insurgent violence,

widespread corruption, and the influence of foreign

The cost of war in terms of human lives has been
increasingly painful. A research conducted by
International Studies indicates that over 350,000
people have died due to direct war violence, and
many more indirectly.
One of the most notorious issues and certainly the
one giving rise to the most voluminous litigation is
the arbitrary detention. Since its start, the war on
terrorism has been directly responsible for a broad
array of serious human rights violations, including
detentions, and unfair trials. In many instances,
one country or another carried out abuses in
collaboration with other governments. Many
reports have emerged of black jails in
Afghanistan, where detainees were secretly held
without the International Red Cross oversight as
required by the Geneva Conventions.
Perhaps the most insidious is the move from
illegality to extra-legality (extraordinary rendition),
the practice of removing individuals from the
protection of law altogether, epitomized by
disappearances and renditions that have been the
subject of various litigation initiatives. To the
contempt of prisoners rights, the United States

secretly stole away suspects to other CIA-run

hidden black site prisons or passed them to
foreign countries with more lax human rights
standards to be interrogated via the seizure
process known as extraordinary rendition.
The prisoners of war on terrorism have largely
been denied the right to petition and fair trial.
Significant numbers of detainees in Afghanistan
and Iraq, later, have been found innocent.
However, their unjust detention and maltreatment
has fomented desperation towards the universal
acknowledgement of human rights.
Some governments adopted abusive practices in
response to direct US pressure. Most notably, the
US encouraged a number of countries to pass
draconian counterterrorism laws, often those which
expand police powers, reduce due process
guarantees, and set out vague and overbroad
definitions of terrorism.
Repressive governments, always seeking rhetorical
cover for their violations, were quick to adopt the
language of counterterrorism to help shield their
abuses from critical scrutiny. In Egypt, for example,
the Hosni Mubarak regime specifically cited the
War on Terrorism and new security laws passed
in the United States and elsewhere to justify the
2003 renewal of longstanding emergency powers.

The enjoyment of the rights to freedom of

expression, association and assembly has long
been partial, and often perilous, for war critics
across the world. The war on terrorism has
accelerated markedly the squeeze on the exercise
of these rights. Independent NGOs, critical media
outlets and public protests across the globe have
all borne the brunt of an assault on fundamental
freedoms that has been fuelled and justified by
an increasingly aggressive propaganda drive to
depict curtailing of the rights as necessary steps to
end terrorism.
Consequent upon war on terrorism is the
emergence of unprincipled discrimination between
nationals and non-nationals, among people of
different races, ethnicities and gender. This
disparate treatment raises complex issues
concerning the human right to non-discrimination.
After the massive terrorist attacks on the World
Trade Center, many Muslims and Arab-Americans
have been persecuted. Muslim men have been
characterized as dangerous, violent and highly
suspect within the popular imaginary, and much of
the Western media, which has led to sanctioning of
civil human rights violations, largely through
detainment, deportation and surveillance.
One of the most condemnable violations, ironically,
justified by the war on terrorism, is the massive
invasion of privacy by the intelligence agencies.

The US categorically defends this violation as a

necessary step to access personal details in order
to build profiles of terror suspects by data mining.
Governments across the world are already
collecting and sharing much of the information
related to personal domain of an individual through
bilateral and multilateral agreements covering
passenger name records, visa applications and
border surveillance systems, to name some.
Of all the mysteries, sexual assault on women and
men forms the darkest secrets related to the war
on terrorism. Despite not being a traditional armed
conflict, sexual violence has been rampant in the
global war on terrorism. Whether in Guantanamo
Bays detention centre or in the Abu Ghraib prison
in Iraq, sexual violence has often been used as a
tool of torture during interrogation. There have
been reports pointing out the cases when women
and girls were raped by soldiers or were forced into
prostitution. The international community has
failed to address the problem of sexual violence
during armed conflicts.
The war on terrorism also harmed the educational
systems of the war-affected regions in different
ways resulting in the complete degradation of the
Iraqi and Syrian education system on the one hand
and in substantial damages to the educational
institutes in Pakistan on the other. In Afghanistan,
there was no established educational infrastructure

in the pre-war years; however, war on terrorism

also failed to facilitate the learning process.
Demolition of infrastructure like schools, hospitals,
electricity supply system, etc., is also a major
factor. Due to war on terror, the victim countries
social infrastructures have been destroyed and the
civilians are deprived of opportunities to enjoy
government services.
Pakistan has been the frontline ally of the US in war
on terrorism. With the decision of Pakistan to
eliminate terrorism of all forms and hues, a
dramatic escalation in the conflict between
insurgents and Pakistans armed forces was
At least 52,000 Pakistanis (combatant and noncombatant) have been killed since 2004 and more
than 50,000 have been injured since then by the
various parties to the conflict. This does not include
the likely deaths of tens of thousands of more
combatants both insurgents and Pakistani
While acknowledging all the grave consequences of
war on terrorism, question emerges, Is there then
an alternate to war on terrorism? In fact, the war
both as a response and as a strategy to
eliminate terrorism is by no means immune to
flaws. While confronting an enemy that transcends
borders and does not recognize any defined

grounds, war is not an option, at all. Wars often

ensue in additional violent conflicts over the new
resources and new political alignments created by
an initial invasion or occupation. The civil wars and
criminal violence that erupted in both Iraq and
Afghanistan are examples of this phenomenon.
Civil societies and media must work for the rights
of victims of terrorism and other violence by armed
groups, supporting them in their struggle for truth,
justice and reparation. They should expose and
oppose unlawful detentions carried out in the name
of national security or countering terrorism.
All states must respect human rights in any action
they take in the name of national security or
countering terrorism. By closing all arbitrary
detention centers, shutting down agencies runprisons, and condemning rather than justifying
torture, the governments can make enormous
Since US declaration to start the war on terrorism,
it has substantially been contributing towards the
loss of civil liberties. From the rugged mountains of
Afghanistan to the fluvial plains of Syria, and from
the settled areas of Pakistan to the volatile regions
of Iraq, the war in its wake has left countless
humans dead. Without mitigating acts of terror and
strengthening security, war on terrorism, in fact, is
espousing fear and creating a sense of repression

among certain quarters of the world. Evidently, it is

nothing short of flaws. It has wreaked so great a
havoc that its effects may not diminish quickly.
There is a need to protect and promote human
rights and every ones right related to social, civic
and political spectrum must be protected.
Injustice any where is a threat
everywhere (Martin Luther King Jr.)