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Rights eroding { November 6 2002 }

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Published on Wednesday, November 6, 2002 by Reuters
Antiterror Laws Eroding Rights, Warns UN Envoy

UNITED NATIONS - A U.N. special envoy expressed concern on Tuesday that a growing number of countries around the world were adopting post-Sept. 11 anti-terrorism strategies that threatened basic human rights.

"The list is growing every day," said Hina Jilani, the special representative for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on human rights defenders.

"Threats to security must be eliminated through the rule of law rather than outside it," she told a news conference after briefing the 191-nation General Assembly.

The United States, Britain, Australia, Indonesia, Colombia and Guatemala were among the countries that concerned her because of anti-terrorism laws and actions taken after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that killed about 3,000 people in the United States, she said.

She also singled out Pakistan, where President Gen. Pervez Musharraf gained power in a 1999 bloodless coup and has recently moved to shore up his own considerable powers even as his country held parliamentary elections last month.

"Pakistan is in a very difficult situation right now, and there is no reason to believe, either right now or in the very near future, that there are good prospects for restoration of democracy," Jilani said.

While anti-terror strategies varied from country to country, some threatened human rights champions and their families while others undermined independence movements, asylum-seekers, political activists or opposition parties and movements, she said.

In some countries, which she declined to name, "it has been very easy for governments to target the opposition by labeling them as terrorists," she said.

"In Africa, in Latin America, in the Middle East, in Asia -- there is not a single region where countries are not fast joining the rank of those who are adopting anti-terrorist legislation," she said.

While she understood governments' need to protect their citizens from terror attacks, "I very firmly believe that the imperatives of security will not be served by violating human rights, and by undermining and derogating the standards that we have already adopted," she said.

2002 Reuters Ltd

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