Statement of the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute
November 2, 2001
The Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute is an organization dedicated to publicizing and using the fundamental principles of the U.S. Constitution, the United Nations Charter and other human rights treaties. We join everyone in mourning the lives that were lost on Sept. 11 and sympathize with the survivors.
We urge the US Government to comply with international law and to make use of the wisdom embodied in the law. There can be no justification for terrorism. Yet the root causes of this terrorism lie deep in the unresolved political issues of the last century, issues of basic justice and human rights that cannot be settled by military force.
Thus the bombing of Afghanistan, and the use of ground troops, can do little or nothing toward ending terrorism and is more likely to increase it. It violates international law and to date has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians, including Afghan national employees of the U.N. removing land mines, and the destruction of marked Red Cross/Red Crescent food warehouses, adding a further tragedy to those of New York and Washington, D.C.
The only organization in place that can work effectively for the peaceful resolution of the deep political/economic issues that lie behind the use of terrorism in the United States and elsewhere is the United Nations, the organization our country helped to create for that purpose. It must be allowed to carry out this purpose.
We applaud the US Government for initially complying with the U.N. Charter by reporting the suicidal attacks to the Security Council, and for belatedly paying its U.N. dues. But the US should not have rejected U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan’s request that US military action be subject to Security Council discussion, modification and vote. As Nobel peace prize winner Annan has said, the U.N. “alone can give global legitimacy to the long-term struggle against terrorism.”
There are a number of remedies available under the U.N. system, including the establishment of an ad hoc international criminal tribunal, which can seek extradition and try suspects within the bounds of due process, as they are doing in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, which the U.S. supported. The US can also sue Afghanistan in the International Court of Justice for harboring terrorists, setting forth the facts for all to read. The Security Council can sanction banks that fail to freeze terrorist assets and can provide forces to assist in arresting suspects.
We urge the US to comply with the universally recognized humanitarian law governing armed conflict developed over the centuries. Even when one side purports to be acting in self-defense against illegal aggression, that side does not gain the right to violate these laws. In particular, attacks that do not distinguish between military and civilian personnel or objects are prohibited as indiscriminate. The US has already violated this prohibition, which is bound to occur when powerful bombs are dropped from high altitudes. In addition, force must be limited to what is absolutely necessary in the circumstances, must not involve means likely to cause unnecessary suffering or long-term impacts on the environment, and must be directed only at military targets.
We insist that the US government abide by the mandates of the US Constitution and by its commitments in the U.N. Charter, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the ABM treaty and the Nuclear Nonproliferation treaty, all treaties ratified by the US and thus a part of US law. Time of war or national emergency does not justify the suspension of any civil liberties under our Bill of Rights. We should be sure not to allow the current crisis to be used to push through dangerous initiatives including the so-called missile defense shield system or oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Our attention must not be diverted from the many critical domestic issues that existed before the attacks, and continue to exist today, including the crises in health care and public education.
We applaud the wise, principled and courageous position taken by Representative Barbara Lee in voting against a congressional resolution that placed insufficient limits on the President’s ability to use military force in the absence of a formally voted declaration of war against a named country, and Sen. Russell Feingold and 66 members of the House for taking a stand of conscience against the hasty passage of the Patriot Act. We will work as lawyers and activists to challenge any infringement of the constitutional rights of everyone in the United States regardless of their citizenship. We encourage Congress take the steps necessary to build agreement to stop U.S. bombing and ground troop movements.
We urge the Pacifica Foundation and WBAI to restore Democracy Now to the airwaves around the country so that there may be an alternative source of news and information for the people of the United States. We urge the US media to fulfill their responsibilities under the First Amendment and to consult with experts in peace and humanitarian law to balance their current exclusive reliance on generals and military analysts.
The mission of Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute is to promote social change by increasing the recognition and use of existing human rights and peace law at the local, national, and international levels. The Institute’s first goal is to help individuals use human rights and peace law to enforce their civil rights and their right to peace, education, jobs, justice, and a healthy environment.