“Counter-terrorism moves should not infringe on democratic rights” | Sunday Observer

“Counter-terrorism moves should not infringe on democratic rights”

The panellists at the discussion
The panellists at the discussion

A recent panel discussion held on counter-terrorism and recover highlighted that counter-terrorism frameworks must ensure that they do not infringe on democratic rights with the overarching message that countries must respond with a comprehensive national response that involves an integrated set of security, governance and development policies.

At the panel discussion organised by the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI), in partnership with the US Embassy, titled ‘From Counter-terrorism to Recovery: Lessons from International Experience,’ held last week, the panellists explored the nature and impact of terror attacks internationally.

There also need to be greater efforts to distinguish terrorist combatants from civilians to prevent justice from being carried out arbitrarily. The experiences of Ireland and South Africa suggest this must be accompanied by political, economic and social policies to address the root causes of violent extremism and radicalisation.

Man-made terror attacks – like natural disasters – are extreme events and their frequency appears to be rising globally. Examples of highly coordinated attacks include 9/11 in the US in 2001, the Bali Bombings in 2002, 7/7 attacks in London in 2005 and the Paris attacks in 2015. Closer to home, Sri Lanka was hit by the Easter Sunday attacks in April. This tragic experience brought home a stark truth. Apart from the immediate impact of death and destruction, terror attacks also have lasting effects which disrupt economy, politics and society. “We are just beginning to unravel the inter-linked nature of terror-induced disruptions and explore ways of healing democratic societies,” the panellists said.

Terrorism has evolved - new forms of terrorism as practised by ISIS have evolved from large scale, centralised and closely coordinated attacks used by Al Qaeda, to acts that are planned by a small number of persons, with the increased use of the internet for propaganda purposes.

The panel comprised Dr. Todd C. Helmus, Senior Behavioural Scientist at the Rand Corporation; John T. Godfrey, Deputy Coordinator for Regional and Multilateral Affairs, Bureau Of Counter-terrorism and Countering Violent Extremism, US State Department; Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy, former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict; and Dr. P. Nandalal Weerasinghe, Senior Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka.

The discussion was moderated by Dr. Ganeshan Wignaraja, Executive Director of LKI, and the closing remarks were delivered by US Ambassador Alaina B. Teplitz.