On September 12, 2001, Human Rights Watch issued a statement condemning the 9/11 attacks, calling on the Bush administration to "uphold the principles that came under attack yesterday, respecting innocent life and international law." Eight years later, we repost our original statement, because it still stands for the principles we believe should have been, but were not, followed in responding to those brutal events.

Human Rights Watch Response to Attacks on the U.S.

Civilian Life Must Be Respected

September 12, 2001

We profoundly condemn yesterday's cruel attacks in the United States and express our condolences to the victims and their loved ones. This was an assault not merely on one nation or one people, but on principles of respect for civilian life cherished by all people.

Last night, President Bush said that the United States "will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbored them." Yet distinctions must be made: between the guilty and the innocent; between the perpetrators and the civilians who may surround them; between those who commit atrocities and those who may simply share their religious beliefs, ethnicity or national origin. People committed to justice and law and human rights must never descend to the level of the perpetrators of such acts. That is the most important distinction of all.

There are people and governments in the world who believe that in the struggle against terrorism, ends always justify means. But that is also the logic of terrorism. Whatever the response to this outrage, it must not validate that logic. Rather, it must uphold the principles that came under attack yesterday, respecting innocent life and international law. That is the way to deny the perpetrators of this crime their ultimate victory.