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Human Rights Conservation and the War on Terror

A large number of factors pose threat to human life and create a feeling of insecurity among the population, resulting in a disruption in personal and social life. Public Safety is the concept of governmental organizations concerned with protecting their citizens from all kinds of threats. The term ‘public safety’ covers different aspects of the protection of the general population. Some of these include Protection against Accidents and Trauma, Protection against Crimes, Protection against Natural Hazards. Thus, the objectivity of law is the Protection and sustenance of public safety. It should be remembered that the disaster of 9/11 took place when the terrorists took advantage of the American social way of life where the number of domestic frequent fliers is high enough to suffer a low security system. The same is true about London underground rail blast. In both cases, the terrorists took advantage of the counties’ way of social life and it would be impossible to alter this way of life putting security as an alibi where the menace is organized by a fundamentalist motive. However, to impose public safety sometimes human rights clauses are violated.

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Before discussing whether it is necessary to sacrifice the human rights of a few select individuals to eradicate terrorism, basic theories of human rights have to be evaluated against the backdrop of the Declaration of Human Rights 1789 and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948. It is also required to trace its origins and study the works of John Locke, Rousseau, Voltaire and other philosophers who postulated that it is the inherent right of a man to be granted his free will. Whether the declarations were practicable or not is also a matter of study and speculation, more so about counter terrorism practices. It needs to be ascertained whether terrorism can be treated with justice alone or are more stringent and violent means necessary (Clapham, 2007).

As opposed to the basic rights of a man, we have certain state approved rights such as the right to a lawyer or a free trial. We need to differentiate between these two. Every individual that is born has the right to a secured life where he can exercise his free will in such a way as to not hurt other’s right to do the same. As is mentioned in The Declaration Of Human Rights 1789 articles 5 and 6, the law is an expression of the general will and that the law can prohibit actions that are hurtful to the society, and every member of the state is granted active participation in the legal framework either through representation or personally (Freeman, 2002).

These are human rights, which have been evolved by the consensus built on arguments within the society for a better framework for governance. However, the inherent right of man is to a dignified, secured, liberal life. Locke mentions that every individual that is born is born with a mind that is a blank slate. Rousseau believed in the basic goodness of man. Coming back to article 1 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, it states that, ”All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” (; 2008-2009).

In Today’s world when one cannot trust the person standing next to him we need to re-evaluate these theories. The act of terrorism has shaken people’s beliefs. How do we treat the perpetrators of such barbaric acts, who are not “endowed” with any “reason or conscience”? How do we ensure that the “blank slate” is not filled with corrupt ideas? How can we stop these impressionable minds from being corrupted? These people do not believe in the human rights of others and are fundamentally opposed to it, which is what their handiwork implies. So is it necessary to protect theirs? Is there a need to bypass these laws section of people to establish the good for a larger section of the society? (Ishay, 2004).

The Mahatma said, ”An eye for an eye would make the whole world go blind”. (Gandhi, 2001) He was of course dealing with an educated enemy, one that was at least ready to sit down for talks and reason. They and their acts were at least visible to others. The fact that there were human rights violations under their regime and that they were largely let go without any punishment is another fact. Anyways the Indians found solace in their freedom. However, how do we reason with fanatic’s hell bent on destruction? Desperate situations call for desperate measures. The bite is always more dangerous than the bark. In addition, whenever anyone tries to does that naysayer shout aloud condemning these measures. If the human rights of the perpetrators are to be maintained, are we not giving them rope? The fact that they will not hang themselves is another matter.

We have international organizations crying aloud to protect human rights of these people. Are not the acts of terrorizing innocents, killing irresponsibly, man woman and child, abuse of human rights? In addition, should not the perpetrators of such ghastly acts be held accountable and handed exemplary punishments? How can we have the same legal framework for protecting human rights of the people who in the first place abused the right of so many victims to a secure, free, liberal life? Should we fight terror with terror? Is it the time to ensure that the terrorists have been terrorized themselves? These are moral questions and the response of people would vary according to their own judgments’ and conscience (Donnelly, 1989).

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Article 5 of The Universal Declaration 1948 states that,”No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” (; 2008-2009) What if the only resort to make the terrorists admit their crimes is by torture and not general reasoning? They may choose to remain silent. Then they go scar free if no other evidence exists. The fact that these declarations have to be followed can also impair the speed of such inquisitions of these crimes. In addition, if exemplary punishment were not meted out to such individuals they would be bracketed in the same category as a petty thief. In addition, that would be a shame!

Article 10 of The Universal Declaration 1948 states that, “Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him”. (; 2008-2009) Nobody sympathizes with the terrorists and everyone has a negative opinion about them. So how can an impartial tribunal are constituted because the tribunal in itself would be prejudiced beforehand.

It is necessary to ensure that some states do not intentionally draft draconian rules to marginalize a section society based on their religious belief, colour or creed but the proven guilty should be punished. To fight terror a gloves off approach has to be adapted (Clapham, 2007).

Article 12 of the Declaration of Human rights 1789 states that “The security of the rights of man and of the citizen requires public military forces. These forces are, therefore, established for the good of all and not for the personal advantage of those to whom they shall be entrusted.” (Lafayette, 1789) Now, if the military forces are burdened with legalities to maintain human rights it may act as an assurance to the terrorists that despite of their acts they would be really safe and free of harm as no one can torture them. This can be debilitating to the confidence of the military forces and the public. It is necessary to establish that the military does not misuse its powers but about fighting terror, they need to be given a free hand. Additionally the terrorists may choose to with hold information that can result in future actions against these organizations they are affiliated to.

There has been a lot of clamor as to whether the death sentence be abolished or not. Article 11 (2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, ”No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.” (Bossuyt, 1987).

Once a proven terrorist is to be punished how we can ascertain what his punishment should be. Doesn’t the life term seem an easy escape to such an offender? What it does is prevent him from committing such a crime again but it does not make a future assassin cringe at the consequences of his offence. It would seem a small price to pay. He would be free to live his life behind bars, meet his family occasionally. The injustice is done to the victim’s family who would never get to see their loved one again (Ishay, 2004).

Article 11 of the declaration of human rights 1789 states that,”The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law” (Lafayette, August 26, 1789). It is the need of the hour to crack down on the ideology of terrorism and its preachers. The ones who corrupt the minds of impressionable youth and turn them into foot soldiers of this barbaric ideology. They are to be held responsible and further growth of this cancer has to be stopped and to do that we need to crack down and prevent the spread of this ideology.

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In addition, to do that the very apostles of these ideas are to be stopped from publicly opinionating or spread their opinions through any form of the media. They cannot be allowed to preach hatred in any way. Any public congregation meant to spread this ideology has to be stopped. It can be interpreted as misuse of power or human right violation but such unavoidable have to be introduced to cure the cancer. That may ensure that these organizations at least would find it hard to find new recruits (Freeman, 2002).

The declaration of 1789 also emphasized that,”A society in which the observance of the law is not assured, nor the separation of powers defined, has no constitution at all.” (Lafayette, August 26, 1789) Hence, it is necessary to ascertain that in any state, the judiciary is maintained at its position and if the framework does not invoke respect in the mind of the offenders then stricter norms are to be formed to ensure compliance for the same for these offenders. Currently the world is in a state of war against the terrorists and under these circumstances the militia should be allowed to interrogate any organization or an individual or his associates that it suspects to be involved. Depending on the result of the investigation, the law can take its own course.

However, if there is no co-operation between the two involved parties the militia should be allowed to resort to any means necessary to extract information or stop an unlawful activity, if there exists, substantial proof of the party’s involvement. The militia here is not dealing with ordinary citizens but potential terrorists and may sometimes be required to act outside of law in order to maintain decorum and protect the rights of others. In these times its hard to say whether one can trust anyone, so, detailed and extensive combing operations are required and the general public should co operate with such agencies in their operations. Only the guilty have something to hide (Donnelly, 1989).

Article 3 of the declaration of 1948 states that,”Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. “ (IPPF; 2007) Additionally, no one has the right to take it away and anyone trying to take it away has to be brought to book. The very act of terrorism has shaken man’s faith in another man. This cannot be allowed to happen and it is to be ensured that anyone found guilty of crimes against humanity should be punished. Every newborn in this world has the right to a better, secure future and the warmongers cannot be allowed to take that right away from them or to pollute their minds with hatred. It is time that harsh actions are taken. It may draw dissension from certain corners but that is the only way to ascertain that a man’s belief in the basic goodness of another man is restored.

Doubting Thomases and naysayer may argue that the means of doing the same may be misused but the ends always justify the means. In addition, that people should be worried about the result. The protection of life, liberty and security of the public is more important than the protection of the same for terrorists. The priority is to stop terrorism. Warmongers and their future generation should be made aware of the consequences of their acts and the consequences should not be pleasing (Freeman, 2002).


  1. Bossuyt, Marc J; 1987; Guide to the “travaux Préparatoires” of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Martinus Nijhoff Publishers
  2. Clapham, A (2007) Human Rights: A Very Short Introduction Oxford: Oxford University Press
  3. Donnelly, J (1989) Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice Ithaca: Cornell Press
  4. Freeman, M (2002) Human Rights – an Interdisciplinary Approach Cambridge: Polity
  5. Gandhi, MK; 2001; Collected Works; TrustBooks
  6. IPPF; 2007; The Right to Liberty and Security of the PersonCharter Right 2; IPPF; Retrieved from
  7. Ishay, M (2004) The History of Human Rights, Berkeley, University of California Press
  8. Lafayette, Marquis de; Murphy, Gerald; 1789; Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen; Cybercasting Services Division of the National Public Telecomputing Network (NPTN);
  9. Lafayette, Marquis de; 1789; Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen; Approved by the National Assembly of France, 1789;; Web.
  10.; 2008-2009; PREAMBLE; UN Web Services Section, Department of Public Information, United Nations;

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