Human Security, NOT National Security – A call to Action

The Asian Human Rights Centre (AHRC) has launched a petition against the use of national security laws by Asian governments to stifle dissent.

Since the mid-80’s democratic struggles in Asia – Korea, Philippines, East Timor
– have been slowly advancing, amidst great suffering and sacrifice of lives on the part of those who were in the forefront of these struggles, as well as those civilians caught in the cross-fire. But more insidious than the direct killing of people resisting the rule of authoritarian regimes is the use of national security laws to incarcerate, for long period of time and without any recourse to redress, those identified as leaders, especially those who have been perceived to be the inspirational leaders of peoples’ movements. The intention of this method is to break their spirits and with them, the spirit of the peoples’ democratic movements.

National Security Laws have been imposed in the severest forms in many countries of Asia, and have in different instances taken the form of martial law, states of emergency and the state imposition of the national/public security laws. In some countries, such laws are a permanent part of the legal framework. Under these laws, the normal constitutional and other provisions are suspended. The courts of these countries are deprived of the possibility of intervening in the protection of the rights of the people. The legal mechanisms undergo a tremendous transformation due to long term use of such restrictions as imposed by these laws.

These laws are not used to ensure the security of the people. Rather, they are used to stifle dissenting voices, to destroy political opponents, to prevent democracy and to completely subvert the rule of law. They make a mockery of “civilization” because they provide a virtually limitless loophole for violating the rule of law governments and police forces can at any time use these laws to detain any person without reason.

The terrorist attack on September 11 in New York shocked and galvanised the world into a new “national security angst” syndrome, and is being used to justify, defend and expand national security laws in Asia. This 21st century revival of the “national security” now dubbed “war against terrorism” – offensive has raised the concern among Asian human rights and civil organisations that any progress made in the democratising efforts of the last two decades will be seriously setback , if not undone completely.

This disturbing trend undermines the entire basis of attempts by the people to improve human rights and democracy in Asian countries. This is the backdrop against which 50 activists, lawyers, researchers, human rights advocates from around Asia gathered together in Nakhon Nayok from 23-25 August 2002 to reflect on, analyse the causes and consequences, of this new scenario in Asia and devise counter-strategies.
For the full text of the petition as well as to sign up, please go to

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