Civil Society Speaker Statement
to the High Level Segment of the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council
Issue: War on Terrorism
Speaker: Dr. Fatima Al Ani
This statement is intended to bring to the attention of the Council, the concern of the civil society around the world with regard to the negative impacts of the so-called “war on terrorism.”
Since 2001 – the war on terror has resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians, and destroyed the infrastructure of several countries. However, it has not eliminated terrorism, or terrorist organisations. On the contrary, we have witnessed the emergence of a new criminal terrorist group called ISIL, as well as a number of armed militia groups.
The counter-terrorism military campaigns have provoked political turmoil and killed thousands of civilians in the targeted countries. Yet despite the acknowledged link between the global war on terror, and the surge of violent extremism, world leaders have failed to modify their strategies. With the destruction of several cities in Syria and Iraq just the most recent examples of a disorganised and non-prioritised war on terror.
Mr President, distinguished member,
Our main concern, is that in the modern war on terror, there is no differentiation between armed terrorists and innocent civilians. Thousands of civilians have been trapped in the besieged cities, where humanitarian access is denied, including essential supplies of food and water - resulting in a multitude of deaths. Besides being deprived of basic medical care, education, and housing, they are then continuously subjected to bombing and shelling.
The media has shown disturbing images of women and children, trapped under the bricks of their homes. Yet the international community has failed, again, to halt the international and government-led coalitions from targeting civilian-inhabited areas, and to respect human rights and the humanitarian law.
Even those who manage to escape the fighting are never safe, as they either face persecution by the terrorists, or by governmental forces and their affiliated militias. If captured alive, they are at risk of being tortured or subjected to the most cruel and degrading punishment.
While we are aware of the threat that terrorism poses to the world, we do not think it should be dealt with by aggressive military intervention and the violation of human rights. On the contrary, a comprehensive strategy should be developed, in order to address the root causes of this global crisis. Alongside this, a development plan should be enacted, and measures should be taken to fight corruption, which has deprived the people of their basic rights.
Finally, we cannot defeat terrorism by the creation of unlawful militias, whose actions are casting doubt on who is the real terror threat. Instead of fostering hatred and sectarian discrimination, we must strengthen the affected societies and invest in education, health, and fighting unemployment.
It should be recognised that although States are sovereign to undertake their own counterterrorism measures, they have an equal duty to maintain and uphold their human rights obligations. Any deviations must, and shall, be accounted for.