Reconciliation between security concerns and human rights has been at the forefront of the rights agenda at a conference in Doha.
The issue was discussed at length on Thursday at the International Conference on the Challenges to Human Rights and Security in the Arab Region, hosted by the National Human Rights Committee in the Qatari capital.
With security being a major concern in the Arab world, and areas of conflict in particular, combating issues of violence and “state and global terrorism” has often come at the expense of individual rights.
“There are some serious concerns facing national security, but there are also serious concerns that there is a tendency to prioritise security over human rights,” Alobaid Ahmed Alobaid, Director of the UN Centre for Training and Documentation for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera.
“There is no security without adequate protection for human rights and you cannot protect human rights adequately without having the proper security.”
With a resurgence of violence and proxy wars flourishing in the Arab region, security has become a state-centered concept with state-centered approaches as opposed to focusing on the individual, according to Fatsah Ouguergouz, vice president of the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights.
There is no security without adequate protection for human rights and you cannot protect human rights adequately without having the proper security.
In order to combat security threats, the nation states have incorporated policies that give the security sector sweeping powers to act without consequence for the purpose of maintaining civil peace.
“There are some other parts of the world where the trend is actually disturbing, ie there is an over preference for a hardline security approach that disregards human rights… To see that trend come back again is really problematic,” Alobaid said.
Climate of impunity
Nation states have adopted policies in which security threats stand as a primary interest, and human rights as a secondary concern, said Christopher Beecroft, from Human Rights First.
The conference found this trend has resulted in a rising number of detentions, violence from state and security actors, arrests and coercive methods of extracting information.
As a consequence, security and human rights are viewed as mutually exclusive.
The result has given birth to a violation of rights in the name of security with increasing cases of torture, forced disappearances, and arbitrary arrests.
Widespread use of using excessive force, coercion and other violations of human rights has been the product of a climate of impunity in the Middle East and in North Africa, speakers said.
Rights as a priority
Human rights abuses can lead to further violence and governments need to make human rights a priority, Beecroft argued.
In the “global war on terror” governments have a shown a preference for hardline measures, opting for military intervention and force in the name of state security.
As a result, there has been a rise in ethnic discrimination and political exclusion, said Mark Singleton, Director of the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism.
Given the complexity of the relationship there is a need for a multi-dimensional approach, Ouguergouz said.
Stating that the concepts of human rights and security are continuously evolving, Ouguergouz said both elements should mature to include new ideas regarding social security for the individual.
The conference concluded with the session suggesting a series of recommendations to bridge the gap between non-governmental actors and the security sector, while also implementing procedures that seek to reduce and eliminate any state impunity.