Governments use terror threat to erode rights–minister
UNITED NATIONS — Some governments exaggerate the threat of terrorism and over use the “war on terror” title to erode civil rights, Norway’s foreign minister told a UN summit on Monday.
The Norwegian minister, Jonas Gare Store, and his counterpart from Indonesia said declaring “war” may be good for a politician’s speeches but it does not help to combat militants.
“There is a risk that under certain special circumstances governments can play up the threat and eventually it may threaten civil liberties,” Store told a forum of ministers and top officials on the sidelines of a UN summit on counter-terrorism.
“I think we should acknowledge that under the wrong circumstances that can happen,” he added when asked if civil rights are damaged in the name of the “War on Terror”.
Countries need “the full participation of civil society and democracy” to act as a watchdog on governments, he said.
The minister echoed concerns raised in the United States, where President George W. Bush declared the “War on Terror” after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Bush’s successor Barack Obama no longer uses the term “War on Terror” and his administration has criticized some of the tactics used.
Without mentioning September 11 or any other recent atrocity, Store said “you may see and we have seen in the past the temptation to use these events and to play them up in a way which goes beyond real purpose of reaction.”
“Is the war metaphor the right approach to deal with terrorism. I believe we have an inflation of using war in our language,” he said.
“We are waging a war against cancer, war against diabetes, there is a war against nature.”
“Among politicians the only tool we have to communicate is language.
And how we brand what we are trying to achieve is important. It also has some effects on the methods we use.
“If we want to mobilize democracy and strengthen democracy against terror, the war metaphor is simply not good. It is good for our speech, not necessarily good for effective measures.”
Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told the forum that he no longer uses the term “battle against terrorism or war on terrorism, because it is not that.” “It is like a marathon,” he said.
“We need patience and perseverance and resilience. It must be done right in ways and means that respect human rights and principles of democracy.”
“Heavy handed repressive measures can only be good for certain periods of time probably, but cannot be sustained.”
Joel Sollier, legal counsel for the international police agency, Interpol, acknowledged that “manipulation” was possible but insisted that governments recognized that September 11 “took us to a new level of severity in terrorism.”
“Everyone understood that we are in an extremely grave cycle of violence and we could not tolerate attacks of this power. If we had tolerated, politically, an attack of this type, what would have been
the next stage; certainly the use of what is known as arms of mass destruction.”
“There is always a risk of manipulation. But the reality of the threat, its gravity, it cannot be denied,” said the Interpol expert.