- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 12, 2005

NEW YORK — Counterterrorism experts from Asia, Europe, Egypt and the United States last week said the fight against terrorist attacks was more difficult than ever before, in part because key nations have adopted such different approaches.

While the United States and other countries have emphasized military and criminal approaches, the Europeans have stressed approaches that attempt to address the root causes of discontent, as well as prevention, participants at a U.N. conference said.

And in Southeast Asia, where terrorist attacks can range from a bombing of a Sri Lankan police station to the 2002 Bali bombing that killed about 200 people, governments are scrambling to work as a federation even as they cope with myriad religious, political, cultural and economic differences.

A Justice Department official stressed at Thursday’s counterterrorism discussion that Washington agencies are working with foreign counterparts to combine intelligence to prevent new attacks and prosecute operatives.

“That cannot be accomplished in a real and meaningful sense without international cooperation and on a daily basis,” said Barry Sabin, the chief of the counterterrorism branch in the Justice Department’s Criminal division.

He said the Bush administration is building “an international partnership that is respectful of the rule of law.”

Participants in the conference, convened by the U.N. Treaty Section to highlight the 12 counterterrorism conventions, agreed that there is a need to strengthen international agreements and harmonize national laws to root out terrorism.

In the days immediately following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Council of Europe issued guidelines for member governments to increase security while safeguarding human rights.

“If terrorism is a sort of psychological warfare that aims to provoke a repressive response and confuse the distinction between perpetrator and victim, it is essential to maintain the high moral ground and deny the terrorists the legitimacy for which they long,” said Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, the Council of Europe’s deputy secretary-general.

The Bush administration and Congress went to a war footing with the USA Patriot Act, which has emphasized collective security and the government’s responsibility to root out threats.

The Bush administration has sought to expand the Patriot Act, which allows unprecedented surveillance of both U.S. citizens and foreigners living in the United States.

Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon said all governments should reinforce civil liberties as well as seek prosecutions, because without that, “this lack of legitimacy can undermine our own efforts against terrorist activities.”

There are 12 separate international conventions that outlaw specific elements of terrorism, including hostage-taking, hijacking and the sale or use of biological or chemical weapons.

But few of these have passed into force because the minimum number of governments have failed to ratify them.

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