Terrorism laws criticised

Published March 1, 2002

Warsaw European church bodies have criticized a package of anti-terrorism measures put before a European Union summit in December, warning that the legislation could endanger human rights and civil liberties. “Governments have a right and duty to protect their citizens, but they should take a holistic, long-term view of the consequences of their actions,” said Dr. Keith Clements, general secretary of the Conference of European Churches (CEC), which has more than 125 member churches, predominantly from Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox traditions. “It’s been difficult enough to get human rights standards enshrined in EU law. There are signs now that governments are responding to a sense of threat with apparently easy options,” he said. Earlier in December, EU justice ministers agreed on a common definition of terrorism as an act that “intends to destabilize or destroy the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country.” Some EU member states, including Sweden and Ireland, have voiced “serious reservations” about the EU’s “fast-track approach” to the anti-terrorism measures. The have argued that the measures deserve a full debate in national parliaments. EU officials have stressed that the terrorism definition is designed to include murder, kidnapping and hijacking, but not civil protests. However, Dr. Clements said the “overly loose definition” could be used to justify a wide variety of police and military operations. He added that church leaders would press for “much tighter terminology.”


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