Author : Zenith Khan

The author is an early career researcher interested in conflict analysis and keeps track of international politics.She has completed her Masters degree in Defense and Strategic Studies from Central University of Gujarat, India and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication

Safeguarding human rights while safeguarding the state apparatus has been a dilemma that has existed for more than a decade now. While the act of terror in itself is a gross violation of Human rights, the citizens within the country are punished unjustly for a crime they never committed. The current counter-terror strategies adopted by the states have also failed to preserve basic rights safely.

The conversation about terrorism mostly occurs in the backdrop of the 9/11 attack and the infamous War on Terror by the Bush administration. The concept, which was supported by several nations, became the cause of the destruction of the entire Middle East.

The fight that was aimed to extract Al-Qaeda from Afghanistan had a blueprint that was based on unjustified laws. These laws allegedly permitted detaining suspects discovered anywhere as “enemy combatants” without accusation or trial until the “war” ended, which could mean indefinitely . Further, there is an element related to the human rights of the war prisoners. Guantanamo continues to be a reminder of the unprecedented violation that occurs behind bars and with no legal protection to the détentes.

The very fact that Terrorism is a contentious concept that has no clear definition poses an equal challenge to the policymakers while framing their counter-terrorism strategy. This gap also gives way to the manipulation of loopholes. This can be observed in the case of just detaining 1 million Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang . China has referred to it as an effort to combat terrorism and extremism. Yet, a closer examination of Tibet and the Xinjiang region reveals dimensions of geopolitics, national interest, and political objectives beyond the need to combat terrorism along with the state’s overarching purpose.

As per the UN Human Rights Commission, insufficient focus has been placed on addressing the broader conditions that encourage the spread of terrorism, such as political exclusion, exploitation, denial of economic and social rights, corruption in judicial institutions and governance, and an environment of impunity . Instead, national and international counterterrorism strategies have primarily focused on security measures.

Identifying a single group from multiple regions, such as Tibet and Xinjiang, is possible to suppress separatist movements. Kashmir is another instance of how India struggles to balance its counterterrorism efforts and respect for human rights . One of the causes is that any form of political dissent has the potential to be exploited by various players in international politics and turn it into a violent movement that may involve acts of terror. The formation of the Taliban very much proves this. The we formed it to fight against the USSR in Afghanistan by manipulating the concept of Jihad. Later, the group became a threat to the US itself.

This imbalance is likely to escalate the problem. Current number of terror groups have only increased since the start of the War on Terror. The evolution of terrorism since 9/11 has certainly taught a few important lessons. One is that counterterrorism policies have unintended negative consequences owing to attack transference and terrorist backlash . Other concerns remain about how the discourse of terrorism is actively produced to demonise some communities in particular, such as Muslims.

Research on the post-War on Terror condition in the West has revealed how counter-terrorism measures can contribute to extreme surveillance on Muslims and render them vulnerable. States need to reconsider how they move forward. The effect of counter-terrorism on human rights is likely to lead more people towards extremist ideology, leading to more terror groups. It is also imperative to ensure that the line between political movement and terrorism is clear in order to guarantee democratic integrity.


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