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Does the War on Terror Show Us That No Progress Is Being Made in Protecting Human Rights Globally

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The war on terror has been a commonly used term ever since 2001 and there have been many developments in regards to this "war." The war on terror in Afghanistan is one of the most recent and ongoing wars that has caused much controversy worldwide and there are many different opinions as to whether human rights are affected. Afghanistan is not the only example of where human rights have been affected due to the war on terror and this essay will look into other such examples and whether there has been any progress in protecting these human right on a global scale. The International Criminal Court and the UN Declaration of Human Rights protects human rights on a global scale and this essay will look into whether these have been effective and succeeded in their aims. This essay will first look into the background of the war on terror to establish an understanding of the topic.

The phrase "war on terror" has most commonly been used to identify the ongoing battle that is happening between the United States, United Kingdom and the support of other NATO and non-NATO countries against al-Qaeda groups across the Middle East. On September 20 2001, Bush launched the war on terror when he said, "Our 'war on terror' begins with al-Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated" (CNN: 2001). The main reason behind this war on terror that President Bush had announced was in response to the attacks on the US on 11 September 2011. As Andrew Phillips stated, "on 9/11, nineteen middle class hijackers from Saudi Arabia and Egypt exploited the very openness and technological sophistication of liberal societies to inflict more death and destruction on the US mainland than had any of America's totalitarian enemies in the twentieth century"(Phillips 2010: 136). Since this attack the war on terror has been very apparent in every day life with constant reports being broadcasted with many different viewpoints being expressed about whether going to war was the correct thing to do and how human rights may have been affected for both civilians and terrorist suspects themselves. Human rights are considered to be the fundamental rights that a person has which are necessary for a life with human dignity, and are thus means to a greater social end (Forsythe: 2006).

Both the International Criminal Court and the UN Declaration on Human Rights protect human rights worldwide. The International Criminal Court began operating in 2002 and 114 countries, however not including the US, have ratified it. The Court is designed to prosecute and bring to justice those responsible for crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes that occur anywhere in the world (BBC: November 2011). An example of where the ICC has been used to investigate human rights crimes is in the Ivory Coast where President Alassane Ouattara made the request after there were allegations of human rights crimes during the country's four-month election turmoil earlier this year, where an alleged 3000 people were killed (BBC: May 2011). The Court was used to investigate these claims and this proves that without the Court there may not have been any chance for these crimes to be investigated thoroughly. The UN General Assembly adopted the UN Declaration on Human Rights in 1948 after the Second World War and the main purpose was to guarantee the rights of every individual everywhere by stating 30 articles that must be adhered to (UN: 2011). The success of this UDHR is questionable as even though countries have agreed to follow the articles set out, there are countries that do not adhere to them and there are still human rights violations ongoing worldwide.

The war in Afghanistan is an example of where the war on terror is apparent, which has subsequently led to affects in human rights. The war began in 2001 following the September 11 attacks in the United States and was claimed to be a war of self-defense undertaken on the grounds that the Taliban regime had harbored, aided and abetted a terrorist grouping (Wilson: 2005). The invasion into Afghanistan has led to terrorists becoming frustrated with the Western World and it is now widely believed that the war has actually been counter-productive and has increased the terror threat rather than reducing it. This in turn has led to events such as the London bombings in July 2005, which shows that the terrorist groups are still trying to prove their point and get their views heard by people, and there have been other attempts such as the attempted attack on Glasgow airport in 2007. In Afghanistan there are divisions that exist over issues such as women's rights, freedom of expression and religious freedom and this has an impact on how progress can be made in the country. Progress in improving the security of the country is linked to improving the human rights situation and without security and a stable government; human rights will not be improved (British Embassy Kabul: 2011).

Another example of a country where human rights have been affected by terrorism is in Iraq. Phillips states that transnational terrorism is now widely regarded as one of the most potent threats to international peace and security (2006: 136). The war in Iraq is different to the war in Afghanistan as it was not a war of self-defense, but a war that was based upon the perception that Saddam Hussein possessed, or intended to possess, weapons of mass destruction, and also his regime that gave support to terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda (Wilson: 2005). Saddam Hussein had a long history of human rights violations including the use of torture and imprisonment of thousands of women and mass executions of the Kurdish, to name but a few, and this violation of civilian's human rights was used as one of the reasons in the case for going to war with Iraq in 2003. Tony Blair and President George Bush had placed great emphasis on how Saddam Hussein had treated civilians and his genocidal attacks on Kurds in 1988 as the main reasons in going to war, however this justification became more significant after the invasion, as other lines of justification became insignificant (Wilson: 2005). People began to question the real reasons behind the war and there was an underlying sense that people believed they had been lied to and this led to Gordon Brown announcing that there would be an enquiry into the war in Iraq in 2009, and the report is expected to be released in 2012. The decision by the government to not release "key extracts" of conversations between Tony Blair and George Bush in relation to the war gives more ammunition to people to believe that there is something to hide behind the true reasons for the war (BBC: January 2011). There has also been much speculation about the treatment of prisoners in the US-led Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq

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