Effective Counter-Terrorism Policy: A Human Rights Based Approach

Ben Clarke, University of Notre Dame Australia

Ben Clarke, 'Effective Counter-Terrorism Policy: A Human Rights Based Approach', presented at Human Development and Security in a Changing World Conference, Tafila Technical University, Jordan, 10-12 July, 2007. Conference details may be accessed at: http://www.ttu.edu.jo/hds/index.html


In this essay a multi-dimensional counter-terrorism strategy is proposed. It draws upon lessons learned by States and international organisations in their current struggle to halt international terrorism The essay begins with an obvious caveat: terrorism cannot be completely eradicated. Even if terrorism in eliminated in the present era, one cannot rule out the prospect of future terrorist campaigns. Terrorism is a 'method of warfare' which has been employed by clandestine resistance movements against great powers for thousands of years The contemporary struggle against terrorism is no different. States are engaged in an asymmetrical struggle against terrorist organisations and networks whose ideologies and methods offend the prevailing international legal order. Radical Islamists seek what the UN Charter forbids: the violent overthrow of 'apostate' regimes and the imposition of their vision of Islam. There will be no decisive military victory as often occurs in an encounter between two standing armies on the battlefield. Instead, either the infrastructure of specific terrorist organisations will be dismantled, and the ideologies that underpin them will be discredited, or these ideologies will gain sufficient traction to be adopted as the official ideology of a number of Muslim States. For reasons outlined below, the former is more likely than the latter. History has proved that specific terrorist organisations can and have been dismantled. While total victory in an ideological 'war on terrorism' is unattainable, specific ideologies can be defeated over the medium to long term (eg Nazism).

The UN Charter was founded upon the bold vision of the attainment of a world without violence. It is only by addressing the conditions that give rise to terrorism that such violence can be quelled. These conditions may be complex. They can include such disparate factors as: (a) present and historical injustices and oppression, and (b) religious instruction that emphasises past injustices and oppression and instils within children doctrines of' hatred, violence, and ethnic or religious intolerance. In order to overcome conditions that cause terrorism, States need to know whether particular strategies are effective, counter productive or inconsequential, and pursue the former. In this subchapter suggestions are offered as to how States, regional organisations and international bodies may identify and pursue effective strategies to counter the threat posed by terrorist organisations and ideologies.