Fake 'War On Terror' Used
To Oppress Activists
OneWorld US 

By Haider Rizvi

NEW YORK (OneWorld) -- Government leaders across the world must stop using anti-terror laws as a tool to suppress opposition movements and deprive ordinary citizens of their due civil and human rights, say international civil society groups attending the World Social Forum in Kenya this week.
"The 'so-called war on terror' is being used by both democratic and repressive governments alike to justify restrictions on civil society activities," said Kumi Naidoo, secretary general of the World Alliance for Citizens' Participation (CIVICUS), a Johannesburg, South Africa-based coalition of hundreds of advocacy groups.
On Tuesday, in collaboration with the international human rights group Oxfam and the U.S.-based Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), Naidoo's group held a news conference where they charged that many governments were committing human rights abuses and imposing unlawful restrictions on the movement of activists.
From Tunisia to Tonga and from the United States to Uzbekistan, the voices of activists and organizations are being silenced, said the groups' representatives, noting that many governments were trying to justify new security laws as a means to protect their citizens, but in practice, they were using them to create a climate of fear.
Many held the United States particularly responsible for the rise of such disturbing trends.
"The Bush administration has used the guise of the 'global war on terror' to obliterate fundamental principles of habeas corpus and sanction torture in Guantanamo," Emira Woods of IPS, who was present at the news conference, told OneWorld.
Describing the recent U.S. air attack on the Somali people as "unprovoked," she added: "This irresponsible set of policies constrains civil liberties, undermines democracy, increases anti-American sentiment, and makes the world less safe."
In amplifying concerns over the governments' abuse of power and restrictions on oppositions' movements, a number of Nobel Laureates and prominent figures from the entertainment world, who are attending the Forum meetings, also joined the activists' call to respect civil liberties and fundamental human rights.
"The war on terror in the world will never be won by force and injustice," said Desmond Tutu, the Noble Peace Prize-winning archbishop of South Africa, at the Forum. "It will remain a problem as long as there are conditions in the world that make people desperate, like dehumanizing poverty, disease, and ignorance."
Attending the Social Forum, Danny Glover, the award-winning Hollywood actor and former UN goodwill ambassador, and Nobel Peace Laureates Shirin Ebadi and Jodi Williams, said they fully shared such concerns and assured their full support for those demanding the protection of human rights and justice.
In addition to taking the United States to task, some activists expressed their grave concerns over the Russian government's use of draconian laws that threaten the activities of local and international non-governmental organizations. Others admonished the governments of Belarus and Zimbabwe for their continued attempts to silence political dissent.
Noting that in most cases, the definition of terrorism remained "vague and broad," activists said they had every reason to believe that anti-terror laws could be used to criminalize peaceful activities and violate freedom of expression, association, and assembly, a point that many  United Nations experts on human rights have fully acknowledged in a number of reports.
Expressing their concerns as far back as October 2005, UN officials warned the General Assembly that attempts by many states to adopt new anti-terror measures could undermine international human rights standards.
In a report submitted to the General Assembly at the time, they emphasized that terrorism required "concerted action by the international community," not legislative steps that deny individual rights to a fair trial, freedom of speech, assembly, or to strike.
"Nothing can combat irrational acts and extreme forms of violence more effectively than the wisdom embodied in the rule of law," UN special rapporteur on human rights Leandro Despouy told the General Assembly.



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