Human Rights and Anti-Terrorist Legislation

Tuesday, June 21st 2018

This panel discussion was organized by theRencontre Africaine pour les Droits de l’Homme, and took place at the United Nations office in Geneva on June 21st, 2018. The main goal of the round-table discussion was to highlight how the fight against terrorism oten served as a pretext to restrict fundamental rights across the world. Speakers also meant to identify tangible ways to strengthen the legal framework for international cooperation in order to tackle this issue. They reminded that states should always ensure that the fight against terrorism is conducted in conformity with international law and safeguards enshrined in the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The participating panelists were: Prof. Warikoo, Secretary General at the Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation; Jawad Fairooz, chairman at SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights; Shoaib Nabi Lone, human rights defender and Azhar Aqbal, UK-based lawyer. The discussion was moderated by Junia Lazarini Videira from Rencontre Africaine pour les Droits de l’Homme (RADDHO).

First speaker on the panel, London-based lawyer Azhar Iqbal focused on Bahrain, which he considered considered “a key example” where anti-terrorism laws were being used against human rights activists by the government. Pointing out how the Bahraini judiciary has been continuously victimising innocent people through the issuance of death and life imprisonment sentences, Mr Iqbal also brought attention to the issue of citizenship revocation. He reminded that this practice was in clear violation of the founding principles of the Bahraini Constitution. Ending his remarks, he strongly condemned the broad definition of article 10 of the Bahraini law on citizenship, which has enabled the state to suppress the legitimate and peaceful exercise of the rights of its citizens.

Also focusing on Bahrain, Jawad Fairoozstrongly condemned the use of military courts and anti-terrorist laws in the Kingdom for political purposes. He underlined how the promulgation of the Law on The Protection of Society against Terrorist Acts in Bahrain allowed security services to detain citizens for years without trial. He reminded the audience : “it is so clear we should not be misled  (…) there are so many freedom fighters who are being called terrorists for their activism. Because political and economic interest is a priority, human rights values are not being taken seriously as a priority”.

Both Shoaib Nabi Lone and Prof. Warikoo both built on these insights. Speaking on anti-terrorist legislation inPakistan, the latter highlighted how broad definitions of terrorism were commonly being misused in pursuit of political strategies, particularly in countries such asBahrain. He reiterated that the fight against terrorism should always ensure the preservation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Welcoming the opportunity to share their own experiences, audience members expanded the scope of the discussion by raising concerns relating to children’s rights and repression of human rights in Saudi Arabia. They also reiterated the importance of solidarity between victims of human rights violations.