US counterterrorism and the denial of fundamental rights from torture to fair trial

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Despite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) exhortation that ‘all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,’ the post-9/11 assault on fundamental human rights has proved that this cosmopolitan ideal is under threat. Of the wide-ranging human rights that have been degraded in the name of protecting civilians in the so-called ‘war on terror’, the right to a fair trial is among the most crucial. However, the precursor to its demise was the ejection of the absolute prohibition against torture in the name of protecting the human rights to liberty and freedom, often described as the right to national security. This chapter explores how the US’s co-option of human rights language as a rhetorical tool to eject certain human rights in relation to specific individuals or groups of individuals underpins the growing challenges presented by national security discourse in liberal democracies. In particular it examines the way in which the US response to 9/11, both in the immediate aftermath and almost two decades on, must be addressed and the relationship between individual liberty and national security reconciled if we are to progress toward a more equal, rather than divided, world.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHuman Rights in Times of Transition
Subtitle of host publicationLiberal Democracies and the Challenges of National Security
EditorsKasey McCall-Smith, Andrea Birdsall, Elisenda Casanas Adam
PublisherEdward Elgar
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781789909890
ISBN (Print)9781789909883
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2020
EventHuman Rights and International Humanitarian Law: Challenges Ahead - Potsdam, Germany
Duration: 6 Sep 20197 Sep 2019


ConferenceHuman Rights and International Humanitarian Law
Abbreviated titleAHRI Conference 2019
Internet address


  • counterterrorism
  • human rights
  • prohibition against torture
  • fair trial
  • Guantanamo
  • military commissions


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