I am concerned about the strictly security-based approach characterising both discussions about stepping up the fight against terrorism and the relevant legislation. The blocking of Internet sites without prior judicial authorisation which recently started in France is a clear example of the risks that such measures represent for human rights, and particularly for freedom of expression and the right to receive and communicate information.
I am also very worried about the proposals currently under debate in several European countries with a view to increasing the powers of security services to keep individuals under surveillance without prior judicial authorisation. If these become law, they may well undermine freedoms and give rise to a negative social climate in which every single person is regarded as a potential suspect.
Respect for private life is a human right that cannot be forfeited so easily. States of course have a duty to ensure security within their borders. But the answer to the question of how security can be reconciled with respect for human rights must stem from an open and democratic debate, learning the lessons of the “war against terrorism” waged over the past 15 years, which has shown that restricting human rights in order to combat terrorism is a serious mistake and an ineffective measure which can even help terrorists’ cause.
It is not by reducing our freedoms that we shall increase our security. Policies which respect human rights preserve the values that terrorists seek to destroy, weaken radical movements’ support and increase public confidence in the rule of law.
It is for this reason that I urge political decision-makers to take the greatest care when drafting and adopting new anti-terrorist measures. I invite them to ensure, in particular, that those measures are subject to effective democratic control and that the persons at whom they are directed have an effective remedy available to challenge them.