Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 18:55 pm (KSA) 15:55 pm (GMT)

Anti-terror policies threaten human rights: report

Police watch over a group of Muslims praying in London
Police watch over a group of Muslims praying in London

Counterterrorism polices undermine human rights laws and risk permanently damaging its structure, according to a report published Monday, as Britain planned to re-focus its anti-terrorism policies on marginalizing Muslim leaders who preach that Islam is incompatible with democracy.

Many of the counterterrorism measures, especially those of "liberal democracies" like the United States and Britain, are illegal and counterproductive, according to the report by the International Commission of Jurists who spent three-years investigating practices in 40 countries.

"It is regrettable that during the last eight years many states have responded to terrorism in a manner that threatens the very core of the international human rights framework," said the report, concluding that governments used public fear to enact measures including detention without trial, illegal disappearance and torture.

The panel urged immediate action and suggested that the use of the phrase "war on terror" was inaccurate and encouraged governments to disregard international human rights norms.

The Geneva-based non-governmental organization based its conclusions on discussions with terrorism victims, people who experienced human rights violations as a result of such policies and government and military officials in 40 different countries.

New UK policy

 We are not going to comment on a new policy until it has been released…in terms of our policy on counter terrorism we have our strategy in place and this is a program that the BBC has chosen to do 
Home Office spokesperson

The report raised a number of concerns about the U.K.'s current counter-terrorism strategies, which according to a BBC Panorama documentary Monday, will be revised this spring to focus more on combating radicalization in ways that critics assert will invade privacy and allow excessive detention without filing charges.

The ICJ report raised concerns over vaguely defined offenses such as the "glorification of terrorism," which would be a criminal offense under the U.K.'s new counterterrorism strategy, CONTEST 2.

According to an unnamed senior Whitehall source quoted in the documentary Muslim First, British Second, Britain's new policy will target Muslim leaders who preach an ideology of separation – such as arguing that Muslims should not vote or condemning homosexuality.

"We want to move away from just challenging violent extremism. We now believe that we should challenge people who are against democracy and state institutions," he told the BBC.

The new strategy will target "radicalizing" behavior, a step up from the current strategy focused on violent behavior, and is divided into the four Ps: Prevent, Pursue, Protect and Prepare.

"We face a real and severe threat from terrorism since 2007 over 87 people have been convicted of terror," a Home Office spokeswoman told "We know we cannot simply arrest our way out of the problem our long term objective must be to stop supporting terrorism or being a terrorist in the first place."

But the Home Office, the lead governmental department for counterterrorism, refused to comment on the new counterterrorism policy.

"We are not going to comment on a new policy until it has been released," said the spokeswoman. "In terms of our policy on counterterrorism we have our strategy in place and this is a program that the BBC has chosen to do."

The Ministry of Justice also refused to comment on how Britain's new policies would impact religious leaders and their rights to freedom of expression and other human rights, referring questions to the Home Office.

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