Human Rights in the ‘War on Terror’

As Jon Stewart, star of the US satirical comedy programme, The Daily Show, observed
of the persistent use of ‘the war on terror’ by US politicians, ‘it’s a catchy phrase, it has
a good beat and you can detain people to it.’ While, no doubt, the contributors to
this collection of essays would sympathise with the intent of Stewart’s remark, they
offer a rather more sober reflection upon the implications for human rights of the
US-led ‘war on terror’ since 2001. Above all, they seek to develop a counter-terror
strategy in which human rights and security considerations can be reconciled. An
impressive cast of human rights academics, international lawyers and activists have
been assembled to take on this challenge, including Richard Goldstone, Geoffrey
Robertson, Kenneth Roth and Mary Robinson. Their job is not easy in the current
climate. As I write, an alleged conspiracy to blow up a number of civilian airliners
mid-Atlantic has been stopped by security officials in the UK. Is it possible to
reconnect human rights and national security when we believe that terrible plots
on this scale are being devised?

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