Human Rights Groups Under Attack

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, | updated: 22:28

“The human rights industry” came under repeated attack at an international conference dealing with the unequivocal condemnation of terrorism regardless of its stated aims.

Nobel Peace laureate David Trimble called human rights organizations a "great curse" Friday, accusing them of complicity in terrorist killings.

"One of the great curses of this world is the human rights industry," he told the Associated Press news agency at an international conference of terrorism victims in Madrid. "They justify terrorist acts and end up being complicit in the murder of
innocent victims."

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, two of the world's largest human
rights groups who issue frequent criticism of both Israel and the United States’ wars against terror groups, issued angry responses to Trible’s accusation.

"It is extraordinarily regrettable and disappointing that, above all, a man like that says something like this,” said Steve Crawshaw, director of the London office of Human Rights Watch. "His own emphasis, together with other politicians in Northern Ireland, on the fact that violence against civilians on all sides of any conflict cannot be justified, has been so important in recent years."

Kate Allen, Amnesty International's UK Director also responded saying, "The threat of
terrorism must never be used as an excuse for abusing people's human rights. David Trimble should remember that human rights organizations have condemned killings and other abuses by terrorist groups all over the world, while at the same time criticizing governments who use the 'war on terror' as a pretext to abuse their citizens."

A spokeswoman for the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo, which awarded Trimble, in addition to Yassir Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzchak Rabin their prizes said, "We don't comment on what former laureates say. We have no reaction to that," she said.

He made his comment as one of the keynote speakers at the first international congress of terrorism victims, which ended in Madrid on Tuesday night. He backed another politician at the conference, the Colombian vice-president Francisco Santos, who said that human rights groups were hindering progress towards peace in his country. "For human rights organizations to call [the Colombian rebel group] FARC 'armed opposition groups' undermines the struggle of those who have decided to side with democracy," Santos said. "That is not right. It is unacceptable."

The Madrid conference ended with a powerful declaration which went some way to supporting Trimble. It said: "We call on NGOs and other civil organizations that stand for the defense of human rights to make a commitment to defend victims of terrorism and to identify terrorist acts for what they are, regardless of their cause or pretext and without striking balances or blurring the distinction between victims and executioners."