Reflections on Boston

April 23, 2013

(Photo Credit: Dominic Chavez/EPA/Landov).
(Photo Credit: Dominic Chavez/EPA/Landov).

My cousin lives in Boston and I was worried that he was somehow affected by the attacks. It immediately brought me back to 9/11 and the memory of how powerless I felt watching the Twin Towers fall. Luckily, my cousin was fine. But it wasn’t true for others. The grief of losing family and friends is unbearable.

Deliberate attacks against civilians by individuals or armed groups are always human rights abuses. Amnesty International condemns the attacks in Boston in the strongest terms. The victims have a right to remedy, including to see those responsible brought to justice in a fair trial that respects human rights and reaffirms the rule of law.

The Obama administration is right to prosecute the suspect in criminal court and ignore those calling for denial of human rights and civil liberties. The trial must be fair, the suspect must be treated humanely and we must not let fear-mongering and discrimination flourish. We all want justice and security, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it.

The call from some members of Congress for the suspect to be held in military detention as an “enemy combatant” in order to conduct interrogations outside the due process requirements of the U.S. justice system was, rightly, a non-starter.

Reliance on the law of war to provide grounds for detention must be reserved for situations recognized by international humanitarian law as constituting armed conflicts. Amnesty International is currently unaware of any basis for concluding that the bombings and other violence in Boston are part of any armed conflict.

The US government’s embrace of a never-ending and vaguely defined “global war” against al Qa’ida and “associated forces” has already inflicted a decade of damage to human rights, from Guantánamo to drone strikes. It’s time to put the global battlefield theory to bed once and for all.

Unfortunately, we must also remind elected officials that discrimination on the base of race or religion is a human rights violation and that torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment are immoral, unequivocally illegal under US and international law, and never, ever justified.

Nearly 12 years after 9/11, I’m still perplexed by how anyone can think fighting terror with terror is a good idea. If terror is bad, then how can responding with terror be good?

The best response to terror is to refuse to be terrorized. Real justice and security come from human rights and the rule of law.