International jurists bewail damage to law by U.S. war on terrorism
By Nick Cumming-Bruce
GENEVA: The U.S.56has done "immense damage" to international law, lacks a credible legal basis and should be repudiated by the administration of President Barack Obama, a panel of eminent judges and lawyers said Monday.
The panel, organized by the International Commission of Jurists, a nongovernmental human rights group, also criticized the culture of secrecy associated with the violation of international laws, which it said afforded impunity to those acting unlawfully.
The report also said abuses were becoming pervasive in democratic as well as repressive states.
The panel based its assessment on a three-year study of terrorism and counterterrorism practices on behalf of the commission that took evidence from hundreds of witnesses in 40 countries. The chairman, Arthur Chaskalson, a former chief justice of South Africa, described the report as "the most extensive study of these issues yet conducted."
The "war paradigm" adopted by the administration of former President George W. Bush to combat terrorism after 9/11 "has done immense damage in the last seven years to a previously shared international consensus on the framework underlying both human rights and humanitarian law," the report said. "This consensus needs to be recreated and reasserted."
"Guantánamo Bay, renditions, military tribunals and secrecy surrounding what has been done" were emblematic of the damage done, Chaskalson said at a news conference.
The panel found it "particularly disturbing to learn in many hearings" that governments in other parts of the world are justifying their own wrongdoing by comparisons with the United States, the report says.
The panel recognized the threat posed by terrorism and that states have a legal duty reinforced by UN resolutions to protect their citizens. But their actions must be in accordance with the requirements of international law, Chaskalson said. "Otherwise they become lawbreakers" with serious consequences for their own societies and international order, he said.
Panel members presented their findings at the start of a series of meetings in Europe and the United States to call for international action to repair and reassert the international consensus behind international laws on war and human rights.