War on Terror Sowing Fear, Rights Violations


In its recently released annual report for 2002, Amnesty International concludes that "far from making the world a safer place," the U.S.-led war on terror "has made it more dangerous by curtailing human rights, undermining the rule of international law and shielding governments from scrutiny. It has deepened divisions among people of different faiths and origins, sowing the seeds for more conflicts."

In a subsequent conference, William Schultz, Amnesty's USA executive director, said that the U.S. initiated events in 2003 generated deleterious effects. That the war on Iraq provided an excuse for other countries to crack down on the opponents of their regimes "in the name of anti-terrorism or in the name of national security." That it served as a "distraction of the world's attention from horrific human rights abuses elsewhere", giving ammunition to countries that circumvent the U.N. and "use the excuse the United States itself does not respect international law." 

The report reviews human rights abuses in 151 countries. In the Middle East, virtually in every country, there were "clampdowns upon freedom of expression and assembly, and intimidation of human rights defenders proliferated." And, "impunity for human rights violations continued and victims and their families were largely denied justice. The region continued to suffer from judicial and extra-judicial executions, widespread use of torture and unfair trials."

In Asia, "in the name of combating 'terrorism', governments stepped up the repression of their political opponents, detained people arbitrarily and introduced sweeping and often discriminatory laws that undermined the very foundations of international human rights and humanitarian law in several countries including Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, the Republic of Korea and Australia." 

In the United States, foreign national arrested after September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks "were also deprived of safeguards under international law. They included 1,200 foreigners, mostly Muslim men who are Arab or South Asian. By the end of the year most detainees arrested during the initial sweeps had been deported - some to countries where it was feared they were at risk of being tortured - or were released on charges with crimes unrelated to 'terrorism.' " And more than 600 detainees from Afghanistan are still being held at Camp X-Ray at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, "without being charged and without legal assistance."

Following this report, the U.S. Department of Justice Inspector General, Glen A. Fine issued a highly critical oversight review released on June 2, 2003, that condemned the abuse of 762 foreigners held after 9/11. The Inspector General found "significant problems" in post 9/11 roundup of suspected terrorists. Many were detained on "scant evidence", and they were subjected to a "pattern of physical and verbal abuse." It reports that "without bail, terrorism suspects remained in jail for an average of nearly three months, much longer than the FBI projected, before it cleared most of them for release. In addition, the detainees faced monumental difficulties and weeks of delay before they were allowed to make phone calls and find lawyers. Some of them were kept for months in cells illuminated 24 hours a day, and were escorted in handcuffs, leg irons and waist chains." 

The Inspector General's report validated the concerns raised by some members of Congress, and civil rights groups, who charge that the Justice Department has cast too wide a net in the campaign against terrorism. David Cole, a law professor at Georgetown University commented that this report "illustrates what happens when the government throws off the ordinary rules, that ensure that we don't lock up people until we have some sound reason to believe they are engaging in some illegal activity."

Ironically, a Justice Department official, responding to this overview, said that they "made no apologies" for it; and the Attorney General John Ashcroft appearing before the Congress, and asking for more new powers, used similar language.

Therefore, it is important that the public, especially in the United States, remains constantly vigilant about its rights and resists the temptation of governments to manipulate fears on the narrow focus of their security agenda. Irene Khan, the Amnesty's Secretary General concludes, "The definition of security must be broadened to encompass the security of people, as well as states. That means a commitment to human rights. That means recognizing that insecurity and violence are best tackled by effective, accountable states which uphold, not violate human rights."

Siraj Mufti, Ph.D. is a researcher and free-lance journalist.


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  14 Comments   Comment

  1. Richard Miller from USA

    I am a US citizen and college student at Provo College in Provo, Utah I have a friend thats family are from Egypt and are of the Islamic faith I am of the LDS faith but in the last few months I have become very interested in the middle eastern part of the world both through the politics and religious issues that have been brought in front of us I see daily on the news the way the US portrays the issues but I wanted to get a better understanding of them by see it from thier point of view and I have come to realize that things arent always what they seem I now see the many problem that this "War on Terror" has caused and yet some problems that may or may not have been solved but there is one thing that I can say and that is there will never be peace if there is WAR there for in order for the world to be at peace I feel that we need to learn to be a little more understanding about each other there are so many things we do not know about each other I have been raised and told since I was a little child that in order to truely love one another we must first truly understand and know one another I appreciate your time and deddicate myself to learning more about one another

  2. nk from usa

    It is very painful to hear that the innocent people are still being held and captured. Are there not any effective actions that we can take to eliminate such torture immediately?

  3. Hannahzarah Avarraschild from U.S.A.

    It is a shame that some of the leaders of the "free" and "democratic" world that profess to be ardent followers of a religion appear to not have read their own scriptures. Both the Hebrews and the Christians are to be a light to the world. Instead it appears that some people calling themselves that are intent on bring darkness into the world.

  4. Shuja Syed from Toronto, Canada

    I agree with Mr. Haroon. When Khilafat was forcefully confiscated from Ali (rd) and that converted into tyranny, Muslims of that time also have looked other way. That paved the way for a never ending dictatorship that has not allowed to see the sun light of democracy. Today, the tyranny of Saudi Arabia alone is causing huge damage to the Muslims. We Muslims should first clarify without any reservations as to what happened 14 centuries ago. What we can learn the lessons from our ancestors. Our ulema have a great and long overdue service to ordinary Muslims to come clean as to what happned 14 centuries ago. We have to highlight the valour and greatness of Syed Hussein (rd) for his pursuit to equality and justice. We have to restored the democratical institutions founded by Abu Bakr, Omer, Othman and Ali (rd). For 12 years, the surrounding Muslim butchers refused to lift the sanctions against poor Iraqis blaming United States to divert the attention. It is nothing but shame.

    Shuja Syed

  5. Liban from Canada

    We have entered an era where America's "Guilty until proven Innocent" view of international law has finally taken hold.

    By the Racist Bush administrations' point of view, only white Americans deserve a fair justice system. All other people of different nationalities, whether or not they are American citizens, are seen as sub-human citizens who do not deserve human rights and freedom.

    This is perfectly clear to all and yet we are still listening to CNN broadcasts and having "discussions" on the topic like it is a story. We have lost contact with reality. May god have mercy on us. We need it now more than ever.

    All god-fearing souls must pray for righteousness if they are powerless to stop this. Pray and know that prayer is stronger than any material weapon that idiots can make.

  6. al from USA

    Cross-Burning at Al-Huda

    For those of you who haven't heard, a very important CAIR press release about Al-Huda School, very close to the UM campus. Please exercise caution in all actions during these tense times.

    CROSS BURNED AT MARYLAND ISLAMIC SCHOOL

    Muslim civil rights group to hold news conference

    WHAT: On THURSDAY, JULY 24, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) will hold a news conference in reaction to a cross-burning incident overnight at an Islamic school in College Park, Maryland.

    Prince George's County Police Department officials confirmed to CAIR that a cross was burned outside Al-Huda School at about 1:30 a.m. this morning. CAIR's Maryland office has informed the FBI.

    Last week, two Pakistani students were shot to in the same county. The FBI is looking into that case to determine if bias was a motive.

    "This incident clearly demonstrates that the issue of growing anti-Muslim bigotry in the United States must be addressed at the highest levels by religious and political leaders," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.

    The U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld states' power to punish those who burn crosses as an act of intimidation.

    CAIR, based in Washington, D.C., is America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, with 16 regional offices nationwide and in Canada.

  7. waqar from India

    Bigger is the gun, smaller is the brain.

    Americans didn't nuked the muslims because they loved them. They did so because they were scared of the economic upheaval that would have ensued after such a move.

  8. Mohammad Anwar Haroon from India

    Dear brother Siraj

    Assalaamu Alaikum Warahmathullah

    We the Ummah have either sowed the seeds of this plant or nourished it by embracing the Kingdom in place of Khilafat which again turned into Dictatorship.

    We did not raise the concers when the people's rights were violated in Iraq by the earlier regime nor we are raising any concerns about other regimes of ours.

    I fear it might be the wrath of Allah on us for not following His Path. May Allah have Mercy on the misguided Ummah. Aameen.

    Wassalaam, Mohammad Anwar Haroon.

  9. suhayb from canada

    well this article is right, but unfortunatly i still haven't heard of a single country where human rights are totally respected. the countries that promote it most for others don't do it themselves, like france who invented it but disrespects it everyday on its own ground as in africa.

  10. Shuja Syed

    Dear Romesh Chander: I think the author is more critical of the Muslim countries than the Unites States. He has wholeheartedly critisied the Middle East, Pakistan, Malaysia together with India as well for human rights violations. The siutaiton is not that bad as compared to the period of WWII, however, we are well into that direction. United States cannot become a tyranny within 24 hours, it might take 24 years, if the current trend continues. Moving or residing in to North America, I think provides me the right to be an educated critic. And that is also one of my reasons to move to a democractic society. I think we cannot suggest people to move back to their countries because they are using their democractic right to highlight some ills of the society. We should not forget that, being a democracy by itself, United States has become the dictator of the world. I blame Shah of Iran and the current Saudi Junta making United States such a 10-trillion dollar monster by artificially controlling the oil prices. Shah has sold oil to United States for twenty years at the price of 1 dollar per barell. Failure of the Muslims to perform their civic duties also has played a key role to the current situation. Islam is misunderstood, but by MUSLIMS THEMSELVES.

    Shuja Syed

  11. Yahya Bergum from USA

    The Department of Justice appears to have increasingly experienced more difficulty, in recent years, building (winnable) cases. Also, it seems that investigators are increasingly exposed to political retribution - regardless of who is being investigated - in accordance with, "Let no good deed go unpunished."

    My concern is that the Justice Department will remain (permanently) dependent on recent suspensions of due process. I would imagine that since 9/11 the workload has gone from heavy to staggering - hence the recent "work-around" of no longer requiring the preparation of cases before incarcerating the suspects (or so it would seem).

    Hoping for peace with justice (for you) and victory (for God).

  12. Anisulla Khan from Canada

    I believe War On Terrorism has put the world more in dander than before.

  13. Romesh Chander from US

    Come on Dr Mufti. Things are not that bad. Remember pearl harbour and what happended to Japenses in US. Well, no such thing happended this time (though it will be far worse next time if anything like 9/11 happens again; there will not only be internment camps; people will be so incensed, there will be wholesale and forced emigration). Yes, about 1200 people were arrested and most of them on visa problems (well, since when any state has given any civil rights to illegal immigrants). Most of them were deported (along with their cash, if they had accumulated; nobody froze their assets unless they were on terrorist lists; yes, organization funds, as shoiuld be, were frozen and are still frozen).

    If the things are that bad, then how many muslims have left US, because they do not like the civil rights conditions in US; None that I have heard about. Yes, many went to Canada because they were illegal immigrants (as they should have been deported long time ago; nobody allows viloation of their laws).

    As far as I can ascertain, you are still in US and have not gone back to Pakistan; and you still keep your beard and and do look like a muslim; and as far I know of, nobody has violated your civil rights and arrested you (you are legal in US). And you are still free to preach and speak.

    I am not a muslim; but I have kept my beard. Nobody has bothered me; and I discuss anything and everybody with anybody and everybody; and with my kind of goofy ideas, I do make people madder than hell; and so far nobody has bothered me.

    Relax. Things are not bad unless you want to make an issue of it. But then lot of people are cry babies.