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'Unique' chance for US to remedy anti-terror acts: jurists

President Barack Obama's new administration presents a unique chance for Washington to remedy human rights violations committed in its anti-terror efforts, a rights report said Monday.

"The change in US administration provides a unique opportunity for change," the International Commission of Jurists The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) is an international human rights non-governmental organisation. The Commission itself is a standing group of 60 eminent jurists (judges and lawyers), including members of the senior judiciary in Australia, Canada, and South Africa and  (ICJ ICJ
International Court of Justice
) said in its report, "Assessing Damage, Urging Action."

"In the course of this inquiry, we have been shocked by the extent of the damage done over the past seven years by excessive or abusive counter-terrorism measures in a wide range of countries around the world," said ICJ member Arthur Chaskalson Arthur Chaskalson, (b. November 24, 1931), former President of the Constitutional Court of South Africa (1994-2001) and Chief Justice of South Africa (2001-2005).

Born in Johannesburg, Chaskalson graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand with a BCom (1952) and LLB
, former chief justice of South Africa The Chief Justice of South Africa is the chief judge in South Africa, who exercises final authority over the functioning and management of all the courts. The position of Chief Justice was created upon the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, with the Chief Justice of .

"Seven years after 9/11 it is time to take stock and to repeal The Annulment or abrogation of a previously existing statute by the enactment of a later law that revokes the former law.

The revocation of the law can either be done through an express repeal
 abusive laws and policies enacted in recent years," said ICJ President Mary Robinson, a former UN human rights commissioner and president of Ireland The President of Ireland (Irish: Uachtarán na hÉireann) [uːəxt̪ˠəɾaːn̪ˠ n̪ˠə heːɼən̪ˠ] is the head of state of the Republic of Ireland. .

"Human rights and international humanitarian law International humanitarian law (IHL), also known as the law of war, the laws and customs of war or the law of armed conflict, is the legal corpus "comprised of the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions, as well as subsequent treaties, case law,  provide a strong and flexible framework to address terrorist threats," she added.

"It is now absolutely essential that all states restore their commitment to human rights and that the United Nations takes on a leadership role in this process. If we fail to act now, the damage to international law risks becoming permanent."

The report focussed on abuses committed by states in the "war against terrorism," a phrase that it appealed for the international community to reject.

"The present political climate may provide one of the last chances for a concerted international effort to take remedial measures and restore long-standing international norms," the ICJ added.

The report was damning in its assessment of the United States' counter-terrorism measures, accusing it and other leading liberal democracies of having "actively undermined" international law.

"The panel found that the framework of international law is being actively undermined, and many states are reneging on their treaty or customary law obligations," said the group.

The report, which covers over 40 countries, looked at instances of people being tortured in secret prisons as well as others held for extended periods without access to the external world, including lawyers and courts.
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Publication:AFP American Edition
Date:Feb 16, 2009
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