NEWS

Tackling terror while protecting human rights

What can the Council of Europe do with regard to terrorism? What it can do is agree on common action between the member countries. The Council of Europe should have been the best vehicle for that precisely because it includes the whole of Europe. The Council of Europe should have been the forum where the issue of terrorism was discussed, where common action between the countries was agreed, and indeed there’s no reason why that common action agreed by the Council of Europe should not result in proposals to be made to the United Nations, which is still struggling with this issue. But what has happened now is that initiatives are being taken in the context of the European Union, even though that is 25 and not 45 countries. And to discuss terrorism without including Russia and Turkey is obviously incomplete. In the last few months we’ve had major terrorist outrages in Madrid, Istanbul and Moscow. Only one of those cities is in the EU. The reason the Council of Europe is important in dealing with this issue is that there is this dilemma which governments face about how far they can take action against terrorism without infringing on the human rights of the people in their country. Clearly the Americans do not have the answer to this question. Or at least their answer is not acceptable to the Europeans. The message of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib is not acceptable to Europeans. That does not mean that we can just sit back and ignore the problem.