Essy Essay

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TERRORISM AND HUMAN RIGHTS* by Conor Gearty *Originally published in the journal, “Government and Opposition” Volume 42, No. 3 Summer 2007, p.340-362. © conor gearty June 2009 THE PURPOSE OF THIS ESSAY IS TO CONSIDER THE IMPACT ON HUMAN rights of the recent rise in the importance attached to, and the perceived danger arising from, violent acts of terrorism. By ‘human rights’ is meant the law, practice and scholarship that has grown up around a subject that has enjoyed huge attention over the past 60 years, beginning with the new international order that was put in place at the end of the Second World War and exploded into public view even more dramatically with the end of the Cold War in 1989. If the half-century that followed the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the vast majority of the nations of the world in 1948 can without exaggeration be described as an ‘age of human rights’ then it may well be the case that the next 50 years (and beyond) will in due course with equal validity be capable of being described as an ‘age of terrorism’ or – if one is sceptical of the empirical foundations of the claim – at very least an ‘age of counter-terrorism’.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx The first part of this article concerns the global challenge to human rights that is posed by the plethora of anti-terrorism laws that are being put in place both in international law and at the national level in many countries around the world. To a certain extent these changes entail the emergence of new exceptions to and derogations from the law of human rights, with the effect of these being to undermine human rights protection, both in theory and in practice. At another and deeper level, these developments are about the harnessing of the human rights ideal itself to legitimize action that in any other context would clearly be condemned as in

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