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It is essential that appropriate legislation be accompanied by law enforcement, intelligence officers and prosecutors trained in various areas including gathering and use of intelligence, forensic evidence, response to hostage-taking, international co-operation, mutual legal assistance and extradition, in the effort to fight terrorism. And, equally important, “we must always remember that if we do not respect human rights and the rule of law, the criminals – the terrorists have won.”
Senator the Hon. A.J. Nicholson, Q.C., Attorney General and Minister of Justice, made these observations at the opening of Commonwealth Project on Capacity Building in Combating Terrorism, which opened this morning (March 13) at the Hilton Kingston Hotel, in New Kingston. The workshop, which ends this Friday (March 17) has attracted some 53 police officers, prosecutors, customs officers and other specialists. It is being funded by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Government of Canada.
“In recent times, many countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada and several of our small nations, have implemented legislation to combat terrorism taking into account the various international instruments and Security Council resolutions,” the Attorney General noted. And, he continued, “in enacting such legislation, we have all had to grapple with balancing the rights of the individual against the rights of the public to the safety and security of the nation. It is recognized that fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual as provided in our Constitutions and as embodied in international human rights instruments must be balanced against other rights and freedoms and the peace and security of the State.”
Minister Nicholson stressed the importance of lawmakers, prosecutors and law enforcement personnel, bearing in mind that this fight to stamp out terror must not be at the expense of human rights.
Continuing, the Attorney General said that while the international community has attempted to address concerns regarding terrorist acts through several international treaties since 1963, the challenge has intensified as globalisation and technological advancements, which has enhanced our lives in many respects, have also widened the door for terrorists. “Terrorism, like drug and arms trafficking, cannot be fought by one State alone,” he told the audience. “It must be done through cooperation not just among international organizations, but it is vital that States effectively combine forces to win this war. It is important, for example, that States ensure effective coordination with their border control agencies internally as well as with each other in order to prevent terrorist acts as well as ensure effective investigation of terrorist cases.”
According to Minister Nicholson there will be the need for increased vigilance in the Caribbean against the background of the staging of Cricket World Cup 2007. The countries of the Caribbean must therefore have effective mechanisms to provide each other with mutual legal assistance in order to assist in the investigation of terrorism. “As such, States should make every effort to enter into treaties to allow for such assistance where their laws require that a treaty be in place,” he added.
It is true that the Caribbean recognizes the importance of having an effective mutual legal assistance mechanism, and have participated in the Commonwealth Scheme for Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, while it has collectively negotiated a treaty for the Caribbean on Mutual Legal Assistance in Serious Criminal Matters.
“This is in recognition of the fact that not all Caribbean States are members of the Commonwealth or the Organization of American States and therefore would not benefit from the Mutual Legal Assistance provided through the instruments from those organizations,” he explained to the participants in the training programme.