Preventing torture within the fight against terrorism
The so-called “war on terrorism” has seen democratic governments resort to torture and ill treatment of persons suspected of involvement in terrorist activities and has reignited the age-old debate about whether torture can be justified if the purpose is to save innocent lives. In this context, prominent opinion and decision-makers as well as members of the general public in leading democratic countries have argued that new forms of transnational terrorism necessitate a revision of existing legal and moral norms related to torture and ill treatment. At the same time, authoritarian rulers around the world have exploited this climate to step up their oppression of political opposition groups.
In February 2007, with funding from the European Commission, the Fédération International des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH) in partnership with the IRCT launched the three-year project, “Preventing Torture within the Fight against Terrorism”. The overall objective is to contribute to re-establish international respect for the absolute prohibition against torture and ill treatment embedded in international law. The project will do this through a wide range of complementary activities covering research, awareness raising, advocacy and capacity building.
While the project aims to have a global impact, targeted country-specific activities will be undertaken in Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia, Kenya, Mauritania, Pakistan, the Philippines, and the Russian Federation. In each of these countries, FIDH will lead fact-finding missions to assess specific country situations regarding the use of torture and violations of fair trials in the context of current counterterrorism strategies. Recommendations arising from the missions will be discussed with major international human rights mechanisms. FIDH also will be working to train human rights defenders in those countries in how to interface with international and regional human rights bodies.
The media is an extremely powerful tool for raising awareness and shaping public opinion. But many local and international media lack the specific skills required to report on human rights violations. The project aims to fill this gap through activities targeting local and international media with the purpose of strengthening the audiences’ understanding of the consequences of undermining the absolute prohibition of torture. These activities, which will be implemented by the IRCT, include:
• Conducting workshops for journalists in the ten target countries on how to report on torture and other human rights abuses; how to address relevant stakeholders; how to strategically collaborate with colleagues and other potential supporters abroad; and strategies for accessing international media.
• Establishing a network of international journalists involved in human rights reporting who will receive timely news and updates, and training in analysing and reporting on human rights matters with a focus on torture in the context of the fight against terrorism.
• Monitoring and participating in the international debate on torture in the context of counterterrorism measures by producing and placing timely statements in relevant media.
• Producing a bi-monthly newsletter with a focus on issues and events related to the question of torture in the context of the fight against terrorism.
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