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The Effect of Terrorism on Human Rights: The Clash between the human rights advocates and victims of terrorism Dissertation


Over the recent past, the issue of terrorism has raised a major security concern in the world. This has increased the need to have effective counter terrorism measures.

However, the fight against terrorism has led to controversy between the measures taken by the state counter terrorism committee and the views of human right organizations. In this study, we seek to find out the implication of terrorism on human rights and its impact on global security.

The discussion begins with an introduction to the general issue of terrorism and its implication on human rights. The question whether human rights are being violated by counter-terrorism measures will be critically analyzed through out this study.

Finally, some attention has been given to address the counter terrorism measures that are implemented to address the national and international security. In the process, there are human right issues that arise from the investigations, detention, and the prosecution of the terrorism suspects.

Introduction and the Problem Statement and research question

Over the past decade, the issue of terrorism has been one of the major concerns in many countries. Cases of terror have increased significantly; this is a fact that poses a major challenge to human rights as it raises issues for victims and perpetrators alike. There is therefore a need to have a critical analysis of terrorism and human right issues surrounding the vice.

Terrorism can be considered as a vice because it is against the basic human rights. This study seeks to give a detailed analysis on this issue of terrorism and the differing views on how it should be mitigated. Cases of terrorism have increased significantly over the recent past as many innocent people lost their lives.

In order to mitigate the terrorism activities, many countries have put strict measures on individuals suspected to be involved in the vice. This raises further issues on the opinion that individuals found to be involved in terrorism have the right to be treated in the right manner as members of the human family (High Commissioner for Human Rights 3).

The research will have a policy implication. It will provide the policy makers with the necessary information which may play a pivotal role in formulation of the most effective policies. This study will also provide a deep understanding of the issue of terrorism and its implication on human rights.

In this case, a major question we need to ask is whether both governments as well as Human Rights organizations have effectively reacted in the right way to terrorism. That is, the approach which does not violate the rights of both the victims and the perpetrators.

Human Rights organizations have the responsibility to ensure that the governments and other counter terrorism officials respect the human rights and the law in their fight against terrorism.

The human rights organizations also have an important role to play in definition of terrorism at the international level and also participate in proposing the best way in which the issue should be handled (International Council on Human Rights Policy 2011: 10).

There is a need for the advocates to have a clear and understandable stand on the issue of terrorism in order to come up with the most effective way to mitigate terrorism. Gani and Mathew (2008: 142) observed that there is a need to have a modern approach towards the war against terrorism. For instance, terrorists have changed their tactics and approaches to execute terror.

There is a need to have a more advanced security check in airports and ports to prevent exchange of dangerous weapons between countries. It is also necessary to have harmonised legal frameworks in order to improve the efficiency while dealing with terror cases that involves cross border issues.

As already noted, the issue of terrorism has a critical human rights implication both for the victims and the perpetrators. The measures taken in an effort to mitigate terrorism has raised critical human rights issues.

For instance, new means of controlling the movement of people from one place to another has critical human right issues because some of the means applied are seen to violate their movement rights (Australian Human Rights Commission 2011: par 4).

In the contemporary world, the level of technology has significantly increased. Interaction between various parts of the world has also intensified due to increased efficiency in communication. This makes it easier to detect any plans of terror before it is executed. This has presented a major improvement in the war against terror.

Meanwhile, several bodies are advocating for use of democratic strategies in the fight against terrorism (Weinberg 2008: 80). This has increased security threats from terrorism both at international and the national levels (Antonio and Sánchez 2009: 36).

It has also raised a concern on violation of basic human rights both through the act and also through the process of mitigating the act itself. For instance, terrorism cases may rise when excessive emphasis is put on democratic strategies in mitigating terror.

As earlier mentioned, there are different forms of terrorism which can be identified in this case. One kind of terrorism is religious terrorism. This is a type of terrorism where religious terrorists attack a large number of people whom they refer to as their enemies. Some of the religious terror groups include Hezbollah, Al Qaeda and Hamas. Narcoterrorism is another common kind of terrorism.

This is the kind of terrorism which involves drugs. Other kinds of terrorism include the state sponsored terrorism. Different People have up with varying typologies in an attempt to understand the issue of terrorism. Lockinger categorises terrorism according to the players who are involved.

Lockinger categorises terrorism based on the actors involved, means and methods used, motives as well as the geographical range (Schmid 2011: 173). In terms of geographical range, there can be either domestic or international terrorism (Schmid 2011: 173).

Domestic terrorism is the kind of terrorism where the terrorism activities are conducted by the people from within the country. This is opposed to international terrorism where the perpetrators may be from a foreign country. In terms of the methods used, ter4rorism can be classified as suicide terrorism, Cyber terrorism, bio-terrorism, nuclear terrorism and chemical terrorism (Schmid 2011: 173).

This study seeks to examine the conflicting issues on the best approach to handle the terrorism perpetrators. There are conflicting ideas on human rights concerning how the perpetrators should be treated from their judgement to their trial. In other words, the study will help in understanding better the issue of crime and its mitigation.

Research Question

Which differences results in determining the best approach to mitigate terrorism? In other words, this study seeks to examine the issues on human rights that arise from the intervention to combat terrorism.

Literature Review

Several studies have been done on the implication of the human rights on the terrorism activities. This literature seeks to identify the main contributions on the issue after which gaps on these studies will be identified. The literature reviewed will be useful in answering the research question.

In the contemporary world, cases of terrorism have significantly increased. This has posed a great threat to the human rights. This is because the issue of terrorism raises critical human rights concern from both perspectives. There are critical human rights concerns to both the victims as well as the perpetrators of terrorism (Strossen 2003: 7).

The concept of human rights can be traced back in 1948 through the Universal Declaration of the human rights (Zalman 2011: par 1). This involves both individual and collective human rights. This reveals the importance of observing the issues of human rights in the fight against terrorism.

Transfer of Terrorist Suspects

The transfer of individuals who are suspected for terrorist activities has significant implication on the human rights and international relations. The transfer if terror suspects can significantly affect international relations. For instance, the process in which the exercise is conducted may be seen to violate the basic human rights.

It is necessary to have coordination between the countries involved to ensure that here is need for the terror suspects to be transferred in a more transparent way which is consistent with the human rights at both international and the national levels.

According to the legal rights, detainees have the right to be notified about the reason for their detention and the offence they are charged for (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human rights 2008: 825). They should also be allowed to access legal counsel.

At the national level, the national authorities have the responsibility of ensuring that all the human rights and transfer or detention are in accordance with the international law. In this case, the past studies have failed to compare the differences and the similarities on the various approaches applied by different countries to handle the case.

For instance, Strossen (2003) carried out an intensive study on the views of many human right activists in mitigating terrorism (12). However, he did not make any attempt to compare the differing views on the rights if victims and terrorism perpetrators.

]This study seeks to fill such gaps. Several cases from the past have clearly demonstrated how the process of transporting terror suspects can raise critical human rights issues. One of these cases involved the transfer of Al Qaeda terrorist suspects from Bosnia to the United States. The suspects were perceived to have planned to bomb the U.S Embassy in Sarajevo (Naegele 2002).

This led to protests as some believed that there was no enough evidence against the terrorists. Therefore, transferring them to the United States as terrorists was against their rights as human beings. Some of the protestors also argued that the fight against terrorism was directed towards the Islam (Naegele 2002: par 4).

Right to Security

Through terrorism, innocent people suffer through the attack that leads to violation of their basic rights to live in security and peace. Therefore, these rights must also be considered in the process of prosecution.

The perpetrators have the right not to pass through any kind of torture or any other form of treatment that degrades their dignity as members of the human family (Thomas 1999: 124). The suspects of the terrorist cases should remain innocent until they are proven guilty in the court. However, the previous studies have not addressed the security issues rising from the process of judgement.

Kalhan et al discussed about arbitrary and non uniform enforcement of the measures against terrorism as one of the main causes of the controversy surrounding the fight against terrorism (Kalhan et al 2006: 174).

He argued that there is a need for the government to consider impartiality while addressing the issue of terrorism. However, the study failed to come out clearly on the issue of security. Therefore, this raises a need to take a critical analysis in this field.

According to Oberleitner (20003: 1), we live in a counter terrorism world and therefore there is a need to be prepared for terrorist attacks (1). In connection to this, it is argued that there is a need to limit human rights to some extent in an effort to combat terrorism.

Oberleitner also noticed that the gap between the language of human rights and the language of the security a growing apart more and more (2003: 2). This study however does not cover the issue the rights to security arising from the issue of terrorism.

Right against Torture

In some cases, terror suspects are highly susceptible to torture. This has raised critical concerns on the issue of human rights. For instance, some people has been deported or expelled due to terror charges. When suspects of terror are suspended from their countries of origin, they are more likely to face ill treatment or torture (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights 2008: 11).

For instance, many terror suspects have been found to have been severely beaten and injured in order in an attempt to force them to give information. However, it may be perceived that there is no enough evidence from the suspect’s country. Torturing such individuals may therefore be considered as going against the basic human rights.

Other Issues

In the recent past, the cases of Al Qaeda attacks led to a declaration of the global war against terrorism (Blanchfield 2010: 56). This fight was intensified by the Al Qaeda attacks of September 11 which left very many people dead (Grunwald 2001: par 4). This declaration was characterized by employment of more rigorous measures to mitigate terrorism.

These harsh measures that are aimed to curb terrorism activities have raised a concern on the issue of human rights. This is more so in the United States as well as the countries that have agreed to join hands in the fight against terrorism in the world.

As a result of these issues of human rights, many counter terrorism campaigners have collided severally with the human rights organizations. During his administration, Bush took a tough stance on the war against terrorism. This made him to fall at loggerheads with the human right organizations.

Many countries like United Kingdom, Australia and others has been accused of taking the chance of hampering civil liberties for some of the citizens (Golder and Williams 2006: 46). For instance, the European Union has been accused by the human rights organizations for putting suspects under illegal detention and taking the terrorist suspects in other countries where they undergo torture.

This is despite the fact that this form of treatment is against the international declaration of the human rights which accords special recognition of every human being as the member of the human family though the declaration has no legal power (High Commissioner for Human Rights 3).

Despite of this declaration, it was observed that majority of countries continued to threaten basic human rights (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour 2010: par 18).

According to the Centre for Human Rights and Humanitarian law, many countries have been accused of taking the advantage of the September 11 to benefit from the use of terrorism prevention in other activities. For instance, some countries have been accused of using this opportunity to intensify their crackdown on the political opponents or religious groups (Alexander 2006: 24).

For instance, political opponents may lay blames on each other to be associated with terrorism attacks. This may be purposely directed towards the opponent as a weapon against them. Many refugees and other foreigners have also undergone unnecessary suffering through the battle against terrorism.

According to the information by the human right organizations some of the affected countries include China, Eritrea, Belarus, Russia, Australia, Israel, India, Liberia, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Syria, United States, Zimbabwe and Uzbekistan (Zalman 2011: par 6).

In order to solve the issues arising from the efforts directed towards combating crime, the international law has prescriptions on the balance between the human rights and confrontation of terrorism. These prescriptions emphasizes on the need to respect the rights of both the terror victims and perpetrators. After the terrorism attacks of September 11, many countries focused on the fight against terrorism.

Some of these officials included the former UN secretary general Kofi Annan (Yotopoulos et al 2004: 96). Following the intensification of the fight against terrorism, a number of human rights campaigners called upon the governments to ensure that all the measures taken to combat terrorism does not in one way or another interfere with human rights and fundamental freedoms (Yotopoulos 2004: 96).

In an effort to combat terrorism, many people have attempted to convince that there is no conflict between the human rights activists and the government officials responsible in combating terrorism activities. However, the state officials have a major role to play in protecting the rights of both the victims as well as the possible target groups for terror attacks.

The fight against terrorism has faced a big challenge from the human right activists (Goswami 2001: 58). One of the ways through which the state can ensure that it conforms to the basic human rights is by ensuring that they conduct their activities within the legal framework. In formulation of the policies to combat terrorism, the states must ensure that they act within the national and international legal framework.

This is because neither of the two can lead to an effective solution when applied individually. For instance, there are some domestic terrorism crimes which are effectively solved domestically. This will require national legal guidance in order to coordinate the activities involved effectively.

Terrorists’ human rights and its implication on the rights of victims

The human rights organizations have in many cases differed with the counter terrorist campaigners on the way in which the issue of terrorism should be handled. These differences are based on the fact that the rectification of the vice should not in any way violate the basic rights of individuals as the part of the human family.

On the other hand, the attempts made by the human rights organizations to protect the rights of the terrorist suspects is viewed as violating the human rights of the terrorist victims whose security, peace and life is threatened.

The office of the United Nations High Commission of Human rights has however taken the issue optimistically arguing that the protection of the human rights acts as a supplement to the measures taken to combat terrorism rather than undermining its efficiency (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights 2008: 66).

This reveals one some of the issues that leads to a clash between human rights and the governments’ efforts to combat terrorism. Both sides seem to be in perpetual disagreements arising from their differences on the most appropriate approach.

This raises a serious issue on the efforts towards the fight against crime. These views are differing and therefore there decisions may take a very long duration in coming up with the most appropriate measures to apply in the fight against terrorism.

Measures taken to curb terrorism and its implications on human rights

Over the past years, there have been a number of different measures that have been applied in fighting terrorism. The first anti-terrorism legislation was the ordinance No. 33 of 5708 which was passed in 1948 by Israel (Legalsutra 2011: par 26).

Many people have proposed different ways through which the issue of terrorism can best be solved. However, the issue of the best method through which this matter should be handled still remains controversial.

“When we see that the struggle for human rights in all the world is the surest and best means to prevent and to punish terrorism properly so-called, we then understand what progress we have made, and we will see where we need to go from here” (Tigar 2011: par 19).

Tigar emphasized on the need to have a critical consideration of the issue of terrorism from the global perspective, consider its implications on the human rights in order to make the most effective decisions on the way forward regarding the issue. A critical examination of the issue will help in solving the dilemma on how the terrorists should be sanctioned within the human rights’ framework.

As already noted, the war against terrorism has been faced by many controversies. For instance, the approach taken on the war against terrorism is perceived in a negative manner by most Muslims all over the world. This is because they view the action as a threat towards their community and their religion and therefore threatening their rights to worship as human beings. Furthermore it is seen as torture for the human Muslims.

Muslim societies in Christian- dominated parts of the world still feel that they are not treated equally (as the Christians) due to their practices of religion and faith. In other words, the actions taken to counter terrorism are viewed to violate the rights of the Muslims as human beings.

This aspect hinders the success of the war against terrorism since some communities may not cooperate mainly because they feel they are being undermined (Blanchfield 2010: 16). In the process of combating terrorism action, there is threat assessment based on current data and information, and then the criticality and vulnerability assessment is done based on the threat assessment.

Prevention measures in terms of personal and physical security, awareness creation and training is then done. Authority and jurisdiction are exercised and there is also crisis management planning and execution (Jenkins 2002: 17). These practices are aimed at bringing awareness to the public on the issue of terrorism. This helps in overcoming any misconceptions.

After the September 11 attack, there were stringent measures which were taken by the member states of the UN. Strict measures were adopted to mitigate terrorism which was targeted on the individuals who were in any way involved or supported terrorism in the country (Skinnider 2011: 5).

This was judged from all forms of terrorism manifestations. In connection to this, the member states were expected to report to the Counter Terrorism Committee all the measures they have implemented to combat terrorism (Skinnider 2011: 5).

Soon after these measures were adopted, the concerns about the human rights were raised. Tension rose after the adoption of these measures over the respect for the human rights.

The major problem was that the Counter Terrorism Committee rarely took into consideration the issue of human rights while giving directions to the member states to have stringent measures to curb terrorism in the world (Council of Europe Committee of Ministers 2005: 46).

This is despite the fact that the High Commissioner for Human rights standards had proposed election of human right experts in the processes in order to ensure that human rights were not violated in the effort to fight terrorism. This implies that core security concerns can lead to violation of human rights.

After the September 11 terrorism attack, the issue of the balance between security and the respect for the human rights raised serious concern. Leonard (not dated: par 7) observed that human rights cannot be respected if the security is threatened. There was therefore a big concern by the international human rights committee to marry the two.

For instance, the bombing which took place in the late 1998 after which several terrorist attacks followed led to the loss of many lives (Jakarta par 2011: 4). In such a case, there is a need to consider the safety of the nationals. More concerns were raised after the comment made by the Chairman of Counter Terrorism Committee that the issue of human rights was outside the mandate of the committee (Tsang 2008: 45).

This triggered the action by the human rights organizations to rise to push for the consideration of the human rights in the fight against terrorism.

In connection to this, the Security Council resolution 1456 emphasized on the responsibilities under the international law for the States to ensure that they comply with the international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law in the measures taken to mitigate terrorism in the world (Great Britain: Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights 2008: 45).

This case illustrates that it is difficult to combat terrorism activities without raising issues of human rights. The main concern is on how to optimizer on the two cases. That is, combating terror while minimizing violation of basic human rights in the process.

Later, the General Assembly took another action where another resolution, which promoted the protection of the human rights and important freedoms in the fight against terrorism. In order to ensure that this was met, the High Commissioner for Human Rights was assigned with the responsibility of ensuring that human rights are protected in formulation and implementation of the counter terrorism measures.

The commissioner was also responsible for giving recommendations to the United Nations and the governments on the necessary measures necessary in protection of the human rights. Therefore, the Committee members of the human rights provided the necessary guidelines to be considered in order to promote human rights in the battle against terror.

From that point, the United Nations human rights bodies continued to monitor closely the implications of the measures adopted to combat terrorism on the human rights (Paul 2004: 940). According to Roger (2005), the fight against terrorism has made immigrants more susceptible to mistreatment (par 6).

Some of the issues which were closely considered by the human rights committee included elimination of torture, racial discrimination and any possible activities which threatens the human rights. Other non-governmental organizations has recently joined in an effort to ensure continued scrutiny on continued observation of the law

The response to the terrorism activities at the national level has also been similar to the approach at the international level. It has been characterized by contradiction over the human rights concerns raised in the battle against terrorism. Over the past, many states have been responding to the issue of terrorism in their own ways. Many countries have their own regulations which guide how they handle terrorism cases.

However, these regulations were revised following the September 11 incident which called for intensification of the security measures employed to counter terrorism. According to Odello and Cavandoli (2011: 148), the measures that had been applied earlier were not sufficient to solve the problem of terrorism in the contemporary world.

This is the reason why the terrorist groups managed to strike America on September 11 leaving hundreds of people dead. There is therefore a need to revise these methods in order to increase their effectiveness. This will help in harmonizing the differences between the human rights and the efforts employed in the fight against crime.

Although many states had earlier employed several measures to combat terrorism, these measures proved futile after September 11. This is because the laws that were directed to probe and arraign terrorists in court were no longer satisfactory (Bassiouni 1988: 110). For instance, there was need to intensify the measures which could help in preventing the crime from happening.

Although several countries had been applying terrorism prevention measures, these measures were not sufficient to combat terrorism which has been intensifying each and every day (Council of Europe 2002: 123). The preventive measures in this case were of great importance as they promoted the effectiveness of the counter terrorism laws.

The report published by Inter-American Commission on Human Rights however insisted on the need to have vigilant investigation in order to promote fair judgment (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 2002: par 1).

Following the September 11 Attack, several countries revised their definition of crime. Before the incident, this was only prevalent in the countries that were at a higher risk of national terrorism (Shattuck 2003: 185). However, various countries have been applying the terms involving detention, prosecution and punishment of the terrorism suspects in varying degree (Baskaran 2003: 40).

State of Emergency

In most cases, the state of emergency powers has been usually applied severally to justify application of certain measures which could be considered to be against the human rights. In the state of emergence, a state is justified to apply severe measures for the sake of national security.

However, the human right organizations has been arguing that this freedom has been misused as an excuse to apply measures that violates State’s treaty obligations (Saul 2006: 86). These obligations required the states to ensure that they consider human rights in taking counter terrorism measures from the level of investigation to the punishment of terrorism suspects.

However, it is important to note that the international human rights law recognizes the fact that states sometimes face some cases of emergency where they may face violent conflicts and other major problems which may pose a great threat to the nation (Burton and Shapiro 2010: 417).

For instance, the cases of terrorism have recently increased significantly and therefore there may be the need to have emergency cases (Greenberg 2005: 45). The human rights laws have clearly defined the acceptable measures which are applicable in this situation in an attempt to balance the national security and the human rights.

However, the human rights committee has helped in formation of the boundaries which has attempted to balance the measures applied in different states and the respective national security concerns (Kälin and Künzli 2009: 89).

In other words, the human rights laws have attempted to marry both the national security and the human rights in order to come up with the most effective laws to deal with the situation (Santow and Williams 2011: 3).

For instance, some of the specifications in several human rights treaties had agreed with some of the measures that required a short term suspension of some rights in case there is high security threat from a terrorism attack (Lynch, MacDonald and Williams 2007: 134).

Some of the states which have declared the state of emergency include the United Kingdom where it was rendered the right to apply exceptional measures for the sake of national security (Great Britain Parliament 2005: 35).

Limitations of the Literature Reviewed (Gaps in the past studies)

From the literature review, several gaps can be identified from the several researches done on the topic. However, there has been very little attempt made to investigate on the feasibility of the international measures against terrorism with the human rights requirements. The previous literature has also not provided adequate data to support the research findings.

For instance, the past studies have failed to support its claims on the terror perpetrators whose rights have been violated. It has also failed to provide any data on torture cases. Such information is important in supporting the proposed claims.

This study seeks to fill this gap by addressing the feasibility of the international counter terrorism measures with the human rights requirement. The main theme of the study is the differences on the best approach towards the fight against terror.


Subjects for the Study

This study will be based on the global perspective in the human rights and the war against terrorism. International data will therefore be necessary in this case.

The main people who will provide important information in this study will be officials who are involved in the issue both from human rights organizations as well as from counter terrorism government officials. These leaders will be helpful in provision of the necessary information which will help in understanding the issue of combating terrorism and its implication on human rights.

The government officials will also be significant in providing the necessary information in this study. Some of the common citizens will also help in provision of necessary information. These people will be helpful in providing the necessary information that will play a pivotal role in answering the research question.

They will also help in understanding the issues surrounding the counter terrorism practices and its implications on the human rights. Information will be collected from the respondent through structured questionnaires. This will be emailed to the respondents who will be expected to send the filled questionnaire back within two weeks.

Close contact will be maintained with the respondents to clarify any issues concerning the questionnaire. This method will be applied in collecting information which will play a significant role in making the final conclusions.


In conclusion this study will be very useful in helping the policy makers in understanding the balance between the human rights and counterterrorism activities.

It will provide the necessary understanding of the main areas which leads to differences between the human rights organizations and the counter terrorism government officials. From the above discussion, it is clear that the issue of terrorism has brought a major concern on the issue of anti terrorism measures employed across the world and its implications on human rights.

Therefore, there is need to adopt more democratic measures which take into account basic human rights. This will lead to an effective war against terrorism hence promoting both national and international security.

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"The Effect of Terrorism on Human Rights: The Clash between the human rights advocates and victims of terrorism." IvyPanda, 19 Mar. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/the-effect-of-terrorism-on-human-rights-the-clash-between-the-human-rights-advocates-and-victims-of-terrorism-dissertation/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Effect of Terrorism on Human Rights: The Clash between the human rights advocates and victims of terrorism." March 19, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-effect-of-terrorism-on-human-rights-the-clash-between-the-human-rights-advocates-and-victims-of-terrorism-dissertation/.


IvyPanda. "The Effect of Terrorism on Human Rights: The Clash between the human rights advocates and victims of terrorism." March 19, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-effect-of-terrorism-on-human-rights-the-clash-between-the-human-rights-advocates-and-victims-of-terrorism-dissertation/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "The Effect of Terrorism on Human Rights: The Clash between the human rights advocates and victims of terrorism." March 19, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-effect-of-terrorism-on-human-rights-the-clash-between-the-human-rights-advocates-and-victims-of-terrorism-dissertation/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Effect of Terrorism on Human Rights: The Clash between the human rights advocates and victims of terrorism'. 19 March.

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