Counterterrorism and its Affronts to Human Rights
Since the 21st century, there has been a sharp rise in terrorism and counterterrorism measures that are an insult to both international and domestic human rights. This essay will attempt to define the intersection of counterterrorism and human rights and why it is important to either adapt existing norms or adopt new conceptions on the constraints to armed conflict. Global interconnectedness also called globalization is not only a phenomenon felt in the realms of economics and culture but is also keenly evident in armed conflict. Modern national security, non-state actors, and detention methods represent the cogs of conflict interconnectedness in the 21st century. Focusing on these three areas will show how counterterrorism is eroding the protection of human rights from outside and within, specifically in the United States of America (US), but also many other nations. Just as the arguments around regulating the effects of globalization are rather heated, so too is the discourse surrounding adaptation and innovation in the methods of counterterrorism. In referencing the current political climate in the US, this essay will conclude that the status quo for human rights will prevail if not become worse in time.
The responsibility to protect (R2P) is an illegal but legitimate conception that faces numerous challenges to becoming international law and a customary norm. The past misuse of R2P by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) creates challenges to R2P that might be insurmountable; clarion calls of R2P being an arm of colonialism, and a tactic of self-interest are valid. So too are the methods at which we address intra-state conflict and combat global terrorism. The dynamics between sovereignty, R2P, and global terrorism allow a nation to discount sovereignty in order to attack another country but claim sovereign rights when asked to protect another country’s population. R2P, if separated from those dynamics, can protect a population within an intra-state conflict, and a community invaded by an outside nation fighting terrorism. As such, R2P is a critical post-Cold War norm. Using the crisis in Syria, the argument that globalization causes any conflict, international or intra-state, to threaten international peace and security is made to support the validity to R2P.
Regional human rights commissions are challenged in holding individuals accountable for human rights violations but have the potential to be transformative to international law. Accountability is not merely trying and punishing the person; rather accountability is a complicated process that presents the main challenges facing a regional human rights commission. These paramount problems are local interests and their influence, the proliferation of impunity, the capacity to deliver accountability, the sovereignty of the state, and the embeddedness of sovereignty within the processes and bodies of the United Nations (UN). However, these problems are not exclusive to regional human rights commissions, and the unique position and sensitivity a regional organization can provide highlights a potentially transformative process for international law.
Holding an individual accountable for human rights violations is not merely staging a trial and rendering a punishment. The person’s trial and punishment are certainly warranted; accountability for the actual abuse regardless of the person, however, is a complex process that involves every facet of international law. Juan Mendez and Javier Mareizucurrena (1999) refer to this as “affirmative obligations on the state” (p. 88). In summary of Mendez and Mareizucurrena (1999), these obligations are a duty to investigate, prosecute, punish those found guilty, and to provide truth to the victims and public. In continuing their summary, there is the requirement to provide certain measures of reparations to the victims and their families and to relieve and remove those who participated in the violations (p. 88). These obligations are crucial yet incredibly challenging to ensuring accountability for human rights abuses. This essay holds the argument that accountability for the alleged individual and the abuse committed are two unique things but that they cannot be separated because victims of abuse are seeking accountability for human rights violations.
The individual realizes his/her personality through the constant interaction between his/her culture and his/her perceived singularity within that culture as the viewer. I bet humans act like particles in quantum physics more than we want to believe; when viewed the particle changes. What is the society when not viewed? As well and conversely, when that person is influenced by another his/her personality will change. However, there remains one constant denominator in all of these social and political equations, as well as quantum physics, and that is the individual/particle. Constructivism dictates that it is both, not just the community/culture. I tend to think it is a synergy and synthesis between two overwhelmingly opposed forces that we simply cannot see the middle ground, much like quantum physics and traditional physics.
There are such things so monumental they transcend all forms of social organization. A bomb does not discriminate between any such organization. When any of us are in fear, we will either freeze, fight or flight. At the doorstep of pain and suffering, all of us will react. Genocide will kill the person, the family, the community and the state. Violence, organized or not, and the desire for power are two norms that are held constant throughout all peoples; there are others, and I argue we just don’t want to find them. When it becomes practical and beneficial both in the short and long term to not ‘take advantage’ I am sure our understanding of commonalities will flourish. Competition needs a hierarchy to work, how else can we define a ‘winner’ or a ‘loser’ without an order? Maybe decouple progress and competition?
We can start by making logical, equitable changes in how we organize internationally. The foundations of the most legitimate intergovernmental organization are cemented in power and domination. The UN must reform the UNSC. We have to find a way to have as legitimate of an organization without playing to the hands of the most important members. We have to stop saying some hierarchies are acceptable and others are not. However, it should be built on the core notion that violence and subjugation in any form are not the desired norm. Violence and subjugation are universal, and there has to be a counterpoint just as universal. I don’t think the Chinese/Asian societies could even look past the logic of ‘harmony’ in that? Even if one does not exist; we have the awesome ability to create and invent through our unique skills at communication that could not have come about without some type of cooperation.