The justification for the war on terrorism is the terrible violation of human rights by terrorism. Terrorist acts deprive a human being of the enjoyment of the various rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights treaties that protect the most basic human rights of all.
In light of the difficult situation in which our world is in today, as it is confronted with waves of violence and terrorism, we often hear of those who are fed up with and condemn everyone who speaks about human rights. Such criticism is often based on portraying it as a contradiction between respect for human rights and law enforcement against criminals.
In fact, human rights begin with the “right to life”, that is to say, the demand for them begins with condemning any acts of terrorism. This right is accompanied by another right, namely freedom of the body from harm, including torture. We are confronted with an integrated system based on compliance with the law and the result of this obligation to protect the rights of citizens to a safe and secure life and to condemn all forms of intimidation of safe citizens while at the same time treating the arrested in a legal framework. It is not our right to overlook any side much more over the other.
There are also those who believe that while members of law enforcement agencies (police) as well as members of the armed forces are killed by terrorists in defense of citizens, it is inappropriate for anyone to speak about human rights. In the past, some countries (including Egypt) suffered severe consequences in the past. Those who were subjected to torture and degrading treatment in the 1960s were the ones who later converted to Islam and justified terrorism in the 1970s. In the book, Landmarks in the Path of Disbelief, it is mentioned that society was allowed to be part of an infidel society, and follow the path of the founder of the Muslim Group known as the Takfir wal Hijra. This group kidnapped and killed Sheikh Al-Azhari, former Minister of Social Affairs and also carried out other terrorist operations, such that terrorism was believed to be born out of ignorance of human rights.
It was repeated in the 1990s with the massive terrorist waves of attacks that killed hundreds of innocent ordinary citizens, especially the girl Shaima, along with Dr. Faraj Fouda and Dr. Rifat Mahgoub, and attempts to assassinate the Prime Minister and Interior Minister Najib Mahfouz and others.
Hence, it is important to review the position of some of the portrayal of the matter as if eradicating terrorism requires ignoring human rights; or that in these difficult circumstances human rights defenders help to perpetuate terrorism and portray them as supporters of terrorism. There is no contradiction between standing in the trench of countering terrorism and demanding respect for human rights at the same time, because the two approaches stem from a single position, namely, the departure from the rule of law and the subordination of all rulers governed by the rule of law. We hold accountable those who commit the crime of murder or carry out terrorist acts in a decisive manner. At the same time, we maintain human dignity and respect the human right even if a crime is committed in a proper legal manner.
This is the basis of building democracy in any society, because democracy is a comprehensive concept based on the equality of all in submission to the law, and guarantees citizen’s rights and freedoms. It is our duty, regardless of the difficulties faced by society, to preserve the vision and not to get out of the way. Accountability of the other, because confronting terrorism decisively requires law enforcement for criminals, and at the same time requires protection of the right of every citizen and to respect his rights even if he is a suspect or accused until proven guilty.
On the other hand, if some human rights activists monitor some of the abuses committed by some security personnel while countering terrorism, police officers at the same time play a fundamental role in the protection of human rights. Thus, policing occupies a place at the heart of the broad spectrum of human rights discourse. Indeed, developments in how human rights organizations consider and deal with the police have reflected developments in the broader discourse of human rights. Instead of focusing on concerns about cases targeting some state security officials, there has been an increasing role to engage with State officials in seeking prevention of human rights violations.
Strategies to prevent human rights violations can go beyond confrontation to cooperation. Dealing with police as human rights defenders would be an opportunity to increase cooperation in search of areas of common concern based on the general concept that human rights principles and policing go hand in hand. Human rights principles do not impede police action; on the contrary, they provide space for the police to exercise their functions and use their powers legally. Police officers should not become adversaries to human rights advocates, but instead they could become partners and pursue similar goals.
The fact that human rights organizations adopt an approach that recognizes the police’s fears and realities and understands police language will be more effective than an approach that isolates itself and criticizes its external location. Such an approach would certainly require that the police force be positive in dealing with human rights concerns and with reforms based on human rights principles if necessary.
Human rights organizations can play an important role in developing security discourse and in supporting police development programs in line with human rights principles. In order to achieve this goal, there is a need for a more comprehensive understanding of the security sector and its aspects, and consideration of the police as having rights as well. The European Police and Human Rights Forum, is a good example in which police and NGOs (including Amnesty International) work together under the same sphere to achieve the rights in service, the right to life, rights in the workplace, the right to privacy, the right to freedom of expression and association, the right not to be discriminated against, the right to freedom of expression and association, and the right to freedom of expression and association, the rights of appropriate labor rights and the rights of disciplinary or criminal proceedings.
We encourage all international human rights organizations and national human rights institutions to examine keenly what is happening on the regional and international arenas. Armed groups threaten the security and stability of many countries and violate the rights of their children to live contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all relevant international conventions. They equally need to present these facts for public opinion in their countries. Human rights organizations should voice their full condemnation of all acts of armed violence and of perpetrators of terrorist acts – regardless of their identity or political motives – as such crimes constitute a flagrant violation of the right to life of innocent men and women, the highest values of human rights.
It is necessary to get out of the circle of confrontation between human rights and police organizations to cooperate. Dealing with police as human rights defenders would be an opportunity to increase cooperation in search of areas of common concern based on the general understanding that human rights principles and policing go hand in hand.
Journalist and Researcher