Holy See to UN: Counter-terrorism measures, protection of human rights do not conflict

.- Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York, yesterday addressed the sixth committee, of the 61st U.N. General Assembly, which is discussing measures to eliminate international terrorism.  The archbishop noted the importance of balancing terrorism prevention with human rights protection.

Noting the worldwide presence of terrorism, Migliore said that, “Because the stakes are so high and concern us all, there is hardly any need to illustrate the importance of an internationally binding Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.”

“My delegation believes,” the Papal representative added, “that in the debate aimed at adopting a Convention, it is fundamental to affirm from the very outset that effective counter-terrorism measures and the protection of human rights are not conflicting goals.”

Counter-terrorism he noted, should serve the protection of human rights, “because the protection of human rights is the primary objective of any counter-terrorism strategy.”

“The absolute unacceptability of terrorism lies precisely in the fact that it uses innocent people as means to obtain its ends, thus showing contempt and utter disregard for human life and dignity. This disregard for life reaches the point of cynically using innocent individuals and entire populations as human shields to hide and protect terrorists and their weapons,” Archbishop Migliore said.

“Moreover, counter-terrorism strategy must not sacrifice fundamental human rights in the name of security. Rather, it must refrain from selective implementation of measures; otherwise, it would corrode the very values that it intends to protect, alienate large parts of the world population and diminish the moral strength of such a strategy.”  Archbishop Migliore said the international community must avoid actions which violate human rights and which could, “dignify in the eyes of some the grievances they claim justify their aberrant behavior.”

“Not even the terrorists' contempt for human life and dignity can justify denying them treatment according to international humanitarian and human rights norms,” he continued.

“Because legality and juridical certainty are at the core of the defense of human rights, the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism should make clear that no cause, no matter how just, can excuse or legitimize the deliberate killing or maiming of civilian populations,” the archbishop said.

In combating terrorism, the archbishop pointed out, it is necessary to recognize the cultural aspect of the battle.  “Terrorism is a cultural manifestation - in the sense of being anti-culture and anti-civilization - of warped perceptions of reality, of xenophobic complexes, of contempt for the other, of seeing the other as a threat, of cynical abuse of religion.”

“Faced with such a phenomenon,” Migliore emphasized, “legal measures and arms are not sufficient; we must respond also with cultural instruments capable of convincing that non-violent alternatives to redress genuine grievances exist.”

Past success against terrorist organizations, he said, demonstrates, “that the fight against terrorism must include a courageous and resolute political, diplomatic, and economic commitment to relieve situations of oppression and marginalization which facilitate the designs of terrorists.”

“It is widely recognized that the recruitment of terrorists is easier in situations where rights are trampled and injustices tolerated over extended periods of time. Still, it must be firmly stated that the injustices existing in the world can never be used to excuse acts of terrorism, and it should be noted that the victims of the radical breakdown of order which terrorism seeks to achieve include above all the countless millions of men and women who are least able to withstand a collapse of international solidarity. The terrorist’s claim to be acting on behalf of the poor is a patent falsehood,” the archbishop said.

Echoing the words of Pope Benedict XVI, Migliore concluded by noting the role interreligious dialogue must play in the struggle against terrorism. “In particular,” he said, “religions and interreligious dialogue have a fundamental role to play in contrasting the terrorists’ preaching of hate and violence as antithetical to authentic religion, in promoting a culture of peace and mutual respect, and in helping people with grievances to opt for non-violent means. This grave duty falls upon religions, but States and the family of nations can help by fostering an environment in which religions and interfaith dialogue can flourish.”

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