War on Terror & the Growing Abuse of Human Rights

War on terror and Growing Abuse

Unprecedented violation, rather abuse, of human rights started immediately after the 9/11. Since then the United States has waged a war on terror but rather than protecting the humans, this unending battle has resulted in colossal abuse of human rights at global level. The war has contributed to the violation of human rights in a number of ways.

First, people are prosecuted merely on the basis of suspicion. Secondly, they are being arrested, investigated and even killed without any judicial proceedings, that are essential under the due process doctrine which is a fundamental, constitutional guarantee that all legal proceedings will be fair and that one will be given notice of the proceedings and an opportunity to be heard before the government acts to take away one’s life, liberty, or property. Thirdly, people’s right to freedom of speech has been consistently infringed upon and it won’t be an exaggeration to say that it has become an elusive dream. Finally, the measures taken by governments within or without their territorial borders in the name of countering terrorism have actually killed scores of innocent people. This unrelenting unjustified violence has made the lives of the people living in war-ravaged countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and the Middle East at large, miserable, to say the least. It has put the personal liberties at stake as any person can be arrested without any FIR or fulfilling other legal requirements.

What spurs authoritative governments and the oppressor nations on human rights violations are some factors that need to be acknowledged, if there is any urge to respect the human rights. First of all, there is a sheer lack of transparency in governmental affairs and it hinders public’s access to information. Governments are supposed to have transparency in all its dealings and respect people’s right to information. It is the basic right of every citizen to know that how his tax money is being spent. People mostly get information on happenings around through media but in the countries where this war is being fought, media persons are not allowed to freely cover and inform people about the prevailing situation of war on terror.

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Secondly, accountability has also been put on the backburner which is against adding to the growing menace of human rights violations. In case of an improper planning of an operation, the lives of innocents are put at stake and even there is always a danger of collateral damage. If those making such flawed plans are not brought to justice, then it is highly likely that they will go on with their practice. This can be stopped by developing inter- and intra-institutional systems of accountability. The drone warfare of the US is a glaring example in this regard as the campaign has claimed the lives of thousands of innocent people but no army officer has been handed an exemplary punishment. No one is accountable of these countless deaths.

Thirdly, some of the law-enforcement agencies in Pakistan have been involved in extrajudicial activities. The “missing persons” or ‘enforced disappearances’ sagas speak volumes about this fact. Admittedly, the court should be more vigilant to dispense justice to the perpetrators of heinous crimes, yet there could be no justification for extrajudicial killings. In this way, the accused persons are deprived of their right to fair trial, which is, again, a fundamental right. Article 10A of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973 reads:

“Right to fair trial.— For the determination of his civil rights and obligations or in any criminal charge against him, a person shall be entitled to a fair trial and due process”.

Unfortunately, such constitutional safeguards are bypassed in the name of war on terror.

Fourthly, any extra-constitutional measure taken to eradicate terrorism, one way or other, adds to the growing abuse of human rights. When constitutional measured are violated, it only adds to the miseries of poor people.

The War on Terror has added to the growing abuse of human rights as this war has culminated in the worst situation of human rights that we witness in the war-torn countries. At present, due to the effects of this bogged war, from political sphere to economic one and from social sphere to religious one, abuse of human rights is rampant. After 9/11, the US and its Western allies, in order to flush out terrorists, resorted to a number of controversial measures, often going outside normal judicial procedures. These measures have often been shrouded in secrecy in a process known as extraordinary rendition that was chosen as a way of holding and interrogating terrorism suspects who were moved by secret flights to secret locations in many different countries like Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. They were considered prisoners but were not allowed for long to defend themselves in the courts. In Pakistan, too, the instances of enforced disappearances have been reported and the issue has still not died down.

Although this state of affairs presents a bleak picture, yet they say every cloud has a silver lining which in this case is the growing, effective role of international human rights organizations that are pressing the governments to safeguard the human rights. There is no denying the fact that by ensuring transparency and accountability, the instances of violation of human rights can be minimized. Vibrant judiciary, competent legislature, unbiased executive and responsible media are the need of the hour. The world would be free from the menace of the war if a united action is taken which, in turn, will ensure the provision of basic rights.

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