A new study commissioned in Berlin and released on Wednesday concluded that the fight against international terrorism should offer no justification whatsoever for the infringement of basic human rights.
They were bound and gagged, but were there human rights violated?
Unfortunately practice and reality are often two very different things, and the report by the German Institute for Human Rights concluded that human rights violations have been the order of the day in many parts of the world following successive rounds of attacks by al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
Most troubling, the study noted, is that democratic Western nations have also been ignoring human rights. The Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the facility at Guantanamo where suspected al Qaeda and Taliban members are being held are just two examples, the document argued, of an anti-terror fight that has spun out of control.
"Humans rights are bound to get in trouble when it comes to the fight against terrorism," said the study's co-author, Wolfgang Heinz, "because the overarching goal to get information from suspected terrorists, and often states only talk about 'terrorists' without any charge, without any trial is the central concern of states and of security agencies."
Cuffed at the ankle and chained to a door handle at Abu Ghraib
The institute report spoke of zones of lawlessness which had developed in the fight against international terrorism after Sept. 11, 2001. It called on the German government to issue stricter guidelines for future anti-terror missions abroad with the involvement of special forces units. Among those guidelines would be a requirement that Bundeswehr soldiers report any human rights violations they see while working on anti-terrorism missions.
US investigation of Abu Grhaib abuses 'half-hearted'
The study also accused the Bush administration of taking a half-hearted approach in its investigation of torture at Abu Grhaib. It also said the role of CIA and private security agents in the scandal has never been seriously scrutinized and called for the creation of an internationally binding system of registration for prisoners. The study also argued that secret detention centers should completely eliminated.
"Some rules have to be clear, and in the case of Germany, I've learned from our minister of justice, for example, that people would not be turned over to the United States if there is not a guarantee, No. 1, that the death penalty is not going to be used against these people and, No. 2, that people should not be sent to Guantanamo."
Report calls for strict international mandates
Heinz also argued that Germany should stick to its policy of only getting involved in anti-terror missions if they are mandated by the United Nations. He described anti-terror coalitions with non-democratic nations such as Pakistan and Uzbekistan as potentially problematic, because these countries have poor human rights records. On the other hand, he said, such coalitions could secure greater influence on how human rights issues are resolved in those nations.
"It's important to define the rules according to which countries which clearly are more democratic and want to remain democratic, cooperate with non-democratic countries or even dictatorship," Heinz said. "Very often in practice, I would expect, there is some exchange between the police agencies and perhaps even security agencies because often these are the same countries in which terrorist activities develop, so there is a necessity that I would accept."
The German Institute for Human Rights was founded in March 2001 with the aim of reporting on the international and domestic human rights at regular intervals. It sees itself as politically independent, although it is co-financed by the federal ministries of justice, development, and foreign affairs.