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 contest it.


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 law.


To that end, the IACHR will present its views on this important topic at its next regular session in February 2002.


December 12, 2001