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24 September 2001
The terrorist attacks in the United States left us numb with shock, fear, anger, grief, and a kind of helpless defiance. It was unexpected, it was merciless, and it took thousands of human lives. It reminded us, in the most brutal of ways, of the fragility of our world and our way of living.
Our reactions to the destruction of the World Trade Center were instinctive. We felt horror and anger and determination that those prepared to murder innocent people in this way should not get away with it; or be allowed to do it again.
Today, I realise that we also need time for reflection. That should in no way substitute our resolve to fight and exterminate the terrorist threat in the world, but we have to consider how this should be done carefully and clearly.
Force may be necessary to obtain our objectives, which are to bring those responsible to justice and prevent any similar crimes in future, but in order to achieve this we must also ensure that force is used in an appropriate, proportionate and rational manner. This means that we must define our objectives with the utmost clarity and precision. Prejudice and terror against the innocent cannot be treated, as the Americans themselves put it, as "collateral damage" of our anger against the guilty.
We must make sure that our efforts will be seen and supported for what they are - a fight for justice against crime - and not as a retaliation of West against East, of rich against poor, of one religious against another, of "us" against "them".
At the same time, as we proceed to search out those responsible, we must engage ourselves in trying to understand the political, social and economic background of the escalation of terrorist violence in recent years. Not that any knowing it can serve as a justification of what happened, or that our efforts to understand will have any effect on the intentions of the Usama Ben Ladens of this world. These people are not interested in correcting injustice; they merely exploit them to justify their acts of terror. But if we are insensitive to political, economic and social injustice in some parts of the world, we facilitate the work of the terrorists and allow fertile ground where they may develop political support and recruit sympathisers.
If we are to succeed, we must show that we believe that a human life has the same value everywhere, whether on the streets of Manhattan or on the streets of Ramallah, or Tel Aviv, or Algiers. We must demonstrate the same resolve to punish a crime against innocent civilians, whether it be committed in Washington, Srebrenica, or Alkhan Yurt.
Today, we need more humanity, not less. We need more justice, not less. We need more human rights, not less.
Statement by Lord Russell-Johnston - 24 September 2001
Council of Europe Website