Terrorism and Human Rights
On numerous occasions the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights (IACHR) has condemned terrorism and stated that no cause or pretext
may be invoked to justify attacks against civilians and other acts proscribed
under international law.
When the terrorist attacks occurred on September 11 of
this year, the IACHR conveyed its condolences to and solidarity with the people
and Government of the United States and extended those sentiments to include the
numerous citizens of other states in and beyond the Hemisphere, who were also
victims. The attacks of September 11 were committed against all people, as the
countries of the Americas pointed out at the Meeting of Consultation of
Ministers of Foreign Affairs.
Terrorism must not go unpunished. States have the right
and indeed the duty to defend themselves against this international crime within
the framework of international instruments that require domestic laws and
regulations to conform with international commitments.
The terrorist attacks have prompted vigorous debate
over the adoption of anti-terrorist initiatives that include, inter
alia, military commissions and other measures.
According to the doctrine of the IACHR, military courts
may not try civilians, except when no civilian courts exist or where trial by
such courts is materially impossible. Even under such circumstances, the IACHR
has pointed out that the trial must respect the minimum guarantees established
under international law, which include non-discrimination between citizens and
others who find themselves under the jurisdiction of a State, an impartial
judge, the right to be assisted by freely-chosen counsel, and access by
defendants to evidence brought against them together with the opportunity to
Exercising the powers vested in it by Article 18 of its
Statute, the IACHR will prepare a Report on Terrorism and Human Rights designed
to assist States in adopting laws and regulations that accord with international
To that end, the IACHR will present its views on this
important topic at its next regular session in February 2002.
December 12, 2001