10/17/2006, 00.00
VATICAN
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The just fight against terrorism must not involve violating human rights, Vatican says

In his address to the United Nations, the permanent observer of the Holy See condemns terrorism's inherent disregard for human life and dignity but also says that states cannot lower themselves to the terrorists' level to fight terrorism. Weapons and laws are not enough in the fight. A cultural strategy must be waged and there must be a willingness to solve social injustices that often breed terrorism. Religions can help through dialogue.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The fight against terrorism can never involve violations of human rights, even those of the terrorists themselves, and religions can offer their contribution through dialogue and the promotion of a culture of respect. Indeed, violence, lest we forget, is often the by-product of great social injustices, this according Mgr Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See who spoke yesterday before the 6th Commission of the 61st General Assembly of the United Nations in New York on item 100 regarding the measures to be undertaken to eliminate international terrorism.

Although not directly mentioned, the Vatican envoy's address was seemingly directed not only at suicide bombers and those who protect them, and those who, like Hezbollah, use civilians as shields, but also at governments who use terrorism to justify repression or mistreat prisoners like in Guantanamo.

"It is fundamental to affirm from the very outset that effective counter-terrorism measures and the protection of human rights are not conflicting goals," Mgr Migliore said. "Indeed, the former must serve the latter, because the protection of human rights is the primary objective of any counter-terrorism strategy."

In his view "[t]he absolute unacceptability of terrorism lies precisely in the fact that it uses innocent people as means to obtain its ends, thus showing contempt and utter disregard for human life and dignity. This disregard for life reaches the point of cynically using innocent individuals and entire populations as human shields to hide and protect terrorists and their weapons."

"Moreover, counter-terrorism strategy must not sacrifice fundamental human rights in the name of security;" otherwise it might "corrode the very values that it intends to protect, alienate large parts of the world's population and diminish the moral strength of such a strategy."

For the Holy See, in their fight against terrorism, states cannot lower themselves to the level of the terrorists. "[N]ot even the terrorists' contempt for human life and dignity can justify denying them treatment according to international humanitarian and human rights norms."

"[I]t must be firmly stated that the injustices existing in the world can never be used to excuse acts of terrorism," Mgr Migliore stated. By the same token, "the fight against terrorism must include a courageous and resolute political, diplomatic and economic commitment to relieve situations of oppression and marginalization which facilitate the designs of terrorists."

"Faced with such a phenomenon, legal measures and arms are not sufficient; we must respond also with cultural instruments capable of convincing that non-violent alternatives to redress genuine grievances exist. History offers examples of non-violent struggle that were able to rectify unjust systems and structures".

Within this context, inter-faith dialogue has "a fundamental role to play in contrasting the terrorists' preaching of hate and violence [. . .], in promoting a culture of peace and mutual respect, and in helping people with grievances to opt for non-violent means. This grave duty falls upon religions, but states and the family of nations can help by fostering an environment in which religions and interfaith dialogue can flourish."

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