Sat, Nov 15, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Anti-terror laws erode civil liberties, rights envoy says


A UN human rights envoy said the responses of many nations to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were tough anti-terror laws that cut into civil liberties.

In a report to the UN General Assembly, Pakistani human rights lawyer Hina Gilani said some of this security-related legislation is so broad that "when abused, these instruments can themselves be used as tools of state terror."

Speaking with reporters on Thursday after presenting the report, Gilani welcomed a high court decision to hear an appeal asking whether foreigners held in the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, may contest their indefinite detention in American courts. More than 650 prisoners are being held.

"I think it is a welcome step that the Supreme Court in this country has opened the question up because judiciary is an important forum for protecting the rights of citizens against executive excesses," Gilani said.

"Unless the judiciaries the world over perform that role effectively, and with an honest conscience, we will not be able to guarantee that human rights will be respected," she said.

Gilani, who is Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special representative on human rights, declined to name any of the countries that she said were adopting legislation "which exceeds the legitimate objective of strengthening security" and can limit judicial review and human rights guarantees.

She warned of what she said was a trend in which nations were stepping back from a commitment to defend human rights to a commitment to taking strict measures to counter any acts of terrorism.

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