Human Rights And The War On Terror

Human Rights And The War On Terror

The war on terror has contributed to the abuse of human rights on the pretext of security measures. Ever since the war against terrorism started, states are justifying and legitimizing violence against human rights. None of the states are immune from this disease even though the so-called torchbearers of freedom, equality and human rights have preached and practised the abuse of human rights.

Instead of decreasing the suffering of mankind, the war against terrorism has increased it. It was believed that the operation which started against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack would bring peace in the world and justice to the victims. However, soon after the invasion, the policies of the USA-led NATO alliance shifted towards strategic gains like countering Chinese, Iranian and Pakistani influence. Moreover, it led towards resentment not only among the adjoining countries but also among the Afghan nation. They strongly resisted and considered it as a foreign invasion, resulting in intense fighting between the alliance and the locals. Ultimately this worsened the problem. The fighting led towards the abuse of human rights and a large number of civilian casualties occurred.

It is believed that a large number of civilian casualties forced the victims’ families to adopt violent means. Hundreds of people joined jihadi organizations to take revenge from the foreign forces. A little while back the local media reported that a student from tribal areas detonated himself as a suicide bomber against American forces in Afghanistan because his family was killed by a US drone strike. So in that way the war on terror has abused human rights and made the situation worse.

Recently, the US forces attacked the Médecins sans frontières (MSF-Doctors without Borders) hospital premises believing it to be a hideout of the terrorists. The attack killed a number of people including those who were being treated there. This created a widespread furore among the volunteer organizations. After the investigations, the Pentagon just served reprimand letters to the perpetrators. Besides this, the USA in 2003 invaded Iraq on the pretext of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The US Secretary of State at that time, Colin Powel showed photographs of the alleged site of WMDs in the Security Council so as to seek support from the allies. The British supported the US invasion of Iraq. Later on, the USA did not find any evidence relating to the weapons of mass destruction rather USA went on to extend its stay in Iraq. This not only created instability but also a sectarian divide. A documentary by Aljazeerah proved that Colonel Steel, mastermind of the El Salvador civil war, was given the task to create sectarian rifts so they could control the resistance to US forces. The former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair recently admitted it as “the biggest mistake” to support the US invasion. The incumbent US President Obama also confessed that “the emergence of IS (a militant terrorist organization based in Iraq and Syria) was the outcome of US actions in Iraq”.

According to analysts, Abu Gharaib prison was the breeding ground for terrorism because of the violent tactics used against the prisoners. They were denied even basic rights. Bagram Air Base was no exception either – the American forces tortured the prisoners there as well. After that some of them were taken to Guantanamo Bay because it was not on American soil, hence by denying human rights to the prisoners there, America was not in breach of any of the conventions. These abuses did not alleviate the problems rather they just multiplied them. USA is the superpower in a unipolar world and the American ideals of freedom, equality and democracy are appreciated throughout the world. Unfortunately, the preacher of these ideals is itself violating its principles. The drone strikes in Pakistani tribal areas are also such examples. The American drone campaign is not only violating the sovereignty of the Pakistani citizens but also massively abusing human rights. There is no denying that there was a small number of terrorists who were killed, but according to researchers there was also a huge number of innocent civilians who had nothing to do with terrorism. The innocent civilians have in fact been victims in this war on terror. They are being targeted from both sides.

The Pakistani leadership is equally culpable in this crime. The ex-president Asif Zardari gave acceptance to the US drone policy. Bob Woodwards wrote in his book Obama’s Wars that he told Michael Hayden of the CIA that “the collateral damage may worry you Americans, but not me”. Therefore, the attitude of Pakistani leadership was apathetic.

Raymond Davis was a CIA contractor who killed two civilians in Lahore. After the killings, his attitude was so arrogant because he was so sure that he would be freed even after the killings occurred in broad day light. Ultimately, the US did not worry about the human rights violation but forced the Pakistani government to free him. The relatives of the victims were paid blood money and he was freed.

States actively and assertively pursue their interests even at the cost of human rights. The state of Russia took violent action against the Chechens and tried to suppress their freedom of movement on the mere pretext of security. Again human rights were blatantly violated. Russia does not tolerate criticism against its leader Vladimir Putin. The media is banned and suppressed and the freedom of information is restricted. Even protests are not allowed. The state of Russia under virtual dictatorship is doing everything which suits its leadership while ignoring and abusing human rights.

Israel has been committing war crimes against the Palestinians since its early establishment. The Jewish state not only established a country but is also trying to annihilate Palestinian land gradually. It has killed hundreds of Palestinians. Each year they wage war against unarmed Palestinians and kill hundreds on the pretext of war against terror. Israelis do not worry about the children, the young or the old. This is their war on terror. It is believed that Israel conducts tests of its newly invented weapons on the Palestinians by killing hundreds of people.

China is also abusing human rights in the name of war on terror. The communist regime has unleashed harsh punishments and abused basic rights of ethnic Ughior Muslims. Even in the month of Ramzan they were prohibited from fasting and performing prayers. Their only crime is that they are Muslims and their loyalty is doubted by the fact that they are the sympathizers of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is the alleged perpetrator of Xinjiang bombings. Due to the crimes of IMU, all the Ughiors are being punished.

When such acts are committed by the state itself, it leads towards resentment among the populace because it is the same attitude as that of the terrorist. The terrorists resort towards abusing human rights. Terrorizing unarmed people is their motivation. Therefore, there must be a different attitude while dealing with civilians and dealing with terrorists. The states should use force wherever necessary to maintain order and to prevent anarchy. However, states should not violate human rights at all, even when it comes to terrorists. It must be ensured that an individual’s basic human rights are protected as enshrined in the Fundamental Rights Chapter of the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan. Protection of fundamental rights would create sympathy among the people which would pave way towards peace. Moreover, it would morally compel the people to adopt a cooperative attitude towards the state.

In the end, it is the state’s responsibility to protect human rights and not deny them. The violation of these rights could worsen the problems instead of solving them. States should be role models of the principle of justice. The terrorists and anarchists should be dealt with justly. In this way, the violators will be punished while the victims will be consoled. But even during times of war, human rights of the perpetrators should be ensured.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of or any other organization with which he might be associated.

Amjad Ali Siyal

Author: Amjad Ali Siyal

The writer holds a Masters degree in Political Science from Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad and has keen interest in domestic and international affairs with reference to Pakistan.


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