Human Rights Protections in the Post-9/11 World
47 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2014 Last revised: 13 Jun 2015
Date Written: 2013
In the years following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, as the United States and other nations prosecuted a global war on terror, the human rights community expressed fear that a post-9/11 world might abandon or at least seriously weaken its protection of human rights. Among those fears was that the changed environment or political pressures might influence international institutions to weaken human rights standards in the name of promoting security or in acquiescing to a war-time anti-terrorism paradigm.
This article attempts to assess whether, in the decade following 9/11, those fears were realized. It examines the response to terrorism and efforts to combat it by the following institutions: The European Court of Human Rights; the enforcement bodies of the Organization of American States; and various institutions of the United Nations. Have these institutions weakened human rights standards in response to the war on terror? Have they, for example, allowed for broader limitations of rights in the face of national claims that those limitations were needed to preserve national security? Have they broadened the circumstances under which nations may — for reasons of national security — derogate from human rights obligations? Have they given nations greater deference regarding the length or conditions of detention for individuals suspected of terrorism? Have they approved more widespread or invasive government monitoring of electronic communications as part of their counter-terrorism efforts?
The Article concludes that the answer to each of these questions is “no.” To the contrary, these human rights institutions have served as strong voices calling for full human rights protections in the face of the war on terror, sometimes in the face of nations seeking changes in the interpretation of human rights standards.
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