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Groups Call for Liberty and Security in September 11th Aftermath

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(Washington, November 1, 2001) A diverse coalition of 48 humanitarian, religious, human rights and civil liberties organizations today released a set of recommendations for responding to the September 11th attacks. The groups stressed the importance of abiding by human rights and humanitarian law in acting to bring the perpetrators to justice and preventing future attacks.

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A printer friendly PDF version of the Statement of Principles is available here.

September 11 Attacks: Crimes Against Humanity
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The groups urged the United States to take "every reasonable step to ensure security for everyone in the United States," and called on the government to investigate and prosecute hate crimes and to uphold democratic freedoms.

Looking abroad, the groups said that "security and justice are mutually reinforcing goals that ultimately depend upon the promotion of all human rights for all people" and called on the United States to promote fundamental rights around the world and to ensure that other countries do not use the fight against terrorism as a pretext to justify repression.

As the war in Afghanistan continues, the groups advocated for "exceptional attention to protecting civilians and civilian objects from harm," and "safe access to humanitarian aid and security for humanitarian workers in order to provide the urgent assistance required by the millions of men, women and children inside Afghanistan."

Groups making the recommendations include: the Alliance for Justice, Amnesty International USA, CARE, Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, Doctors of the World-USA, Human Rights Watch, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Muslim Public Affairs Council, National Council of Churches, Open Society Institute, Oxfam America, Physicians for Human Rights, Refugees International, Save the Children/US, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and the US Committee for Refugees. The full statement and a complete list of signers is attached.


Following the appalling attacks of September 11, the United States and the international community face an historic challenge: to mount a collective effort to achieve security in a world scarred by atrocities and conflict. To meet this challenge we must recognize that security and justice are mutually reinforcing goals that ultimately depend upon the promotion of all human rights for all people. The principles established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights demand accountability for those who violate its fundamental principles. More than that, they offer a universal blueprint for just societies based on the values of liberty, equality, democracy, development, and justice. These principles are not the province of one civilization or culture but the shared birthright of all human beings.

We therefore propose ten core principles that should guide the response to these attacks, and to those responsible for them.

Condemn the Attacks

1. We condemn the horrendous attacks of September 11. We urge all governments and all people to stand against these and other indiscriminate attacks directed at innocent civilians.

Mourn the Victims

2. We mourn the loss of innocent lives and express our solidarity with the victims and their families.

Bring the Perpetrators to Justice and Prevent New Attacks

3. We urge all governments to unite to investigate these crimes, to bring to justice those who are responsible, and to prevent future attacks.

Safeguard Liberty while Protecting Security

4. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks the U.S. government has the authority and the duty to take every reasonable step to ensure security for everyone in the United States. Such steps can and must uphold the democratic freedoms cherished by citizens and non-citizens alike. We are confident that we can reconcile the requirements of security with the blessings of liberty.

Reject Scapegoating

5. We commend public officials and civic and religious leaders who have called on the public not to blame whole communities for the deeds of a few. These leaders and the public at large should continue to work to prevent attacks, harassment, and persecution of people based on their race, religion, national origin, ethnic background, or appearance. Hate crimes must be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted.

Promote and Respect Human Rights Worldwide

6. The United States and its allies should not allow the current campaign to prevent them from vigorously and consistently challenging violations of fundamental rights by all governments. They must ensure that governments do not use the fight against terrorism as a pretext to justify repression or the curtailment of rights. And of course they themselves must avoid support for or complicity in abuses.

Respect the Laws of War

7. The military responses that have been or may be undertaken must pay exceptional attention to protecting civilians and civilian objects from harm as required by international humanitarian law such as the Geneva Conventions. Perpetrators and their accomplices must be distinguished from the civilian population at large and from those who may simply share their religion, ethnicity or national origin. Efforts should also be undertaken to minimize displacement of civilians.

Ensure Humanitarian Access and Protect Those Seeking Refuge

8. Governments and other parties must ensure safe access to humanitarian aid and security for humanitarian workers in order to provide the urgent assistance required by the millions of men, women and children inside Afghanistan. Refugees and others in need of international protection must be allowed to leave Afghanistan or other countries to seek safety. Governments should work together to ensure that countries receiving refugees have the necessary resources to screen the arriving population and to provide them with the required standards of protection, food, water, shelter and other basic needs.

Promote Human Development

9. Freedom from fear must go hand in hand with freedom from want. A key to security lies in safeguarding and promoting just and equitable societies where people's basic civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights are respected. Today, more than ever, our search for security must include an affirmative commitment to advance this broader rights agenda.

Promote and Defend Open Societies

10. Global security is enhanced by the success of open societies that foster respect for the rule of law and promote tolerance and guarantee people's rights of free expression and peaceful dissent. We applaud political leaders, in the U.S. and elsewhere, who champion human rights and democratic government.


Alchemind Society: The International Association for Cognitive Liberty
Alliance for Justice
American Friends Service Committee
Amnesty International - USA
Ashay: Educational Resources for a Multicultural World
Bahá'ís of the United States
Center for Democracy & Technology
Center for Economic and Social Rights
Center for Reproductive Law and Policy
Church World Service
Doctors of the World-USA
Food for the Hungry
Human Rights Watch
Immigration and Refugee Services of America
International Human Rights Law Group
International Institute of New Jersey
International League for Human Rights
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights
Muslim Public Affairs Council
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA
National Immigration Forum

Nuremburg Legacy Project
Open Society Institute
Oxfam America
Pacific Gateway Center
Physicians for Human Rights
Physicians For Peace
Population Communications
Refugees International
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights
Save the Children USA
Sikh Dharma International
Sikh Mediawatch and Resource Task Force
Students for a Free Tibet
U.S. Committee for Refugees
Union of American Hebrew Congregations
Unitarian Universalists Association of Congregations
Volunteers in Technical Assistance
Western Kentucky Refugee MAA, Inc.
World Organization Against Torture USA
World Relief
Youth International
Youth Speaks NY