Time for an anti-terrorism law

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Time for an anti-terrorism law

They fired as if shooting down birds. Their gunshots and explosives took 130 lives and injured more than 350. The world was dumbfounded. Friday. Nov. 13, 2015, in Paris was another horrendous version of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. The tragic deja-vu begs us to think seriously about human rights in the modern age. We are asked to ponder what is more important in the realm of human entitlements - victimization under the idealistic goal of destructive extremists or the realistic threat to lives of common people.

Those who think lightly of human rights would say a terrorist could be a martyr or savior. But, regardless of the ultimate goal, an act of terrorism is evil because it targets common citizens. Even though terrorism is purposed to bring down a certain state or government, the broader masses are sacrificed as easy victims and scapegoats. Under moral ethics of German philosopher Immanuel Kant, who argued that humans should never be treated as means to an end, such cruel disregard for human lives is an unforgivable crime against humanity.

Those who threaten national security through acts of terrorism, revolt, espionage, and destructive activities are unquestionable criminals. But when caught they stoically say they have nothing to say and ask to be killed quickly. Investigations often go nowhere and getting a guilty verdict is not easy. Despite a human rights controversy, the United States keeps terrorist suspects and detainees segregated at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.

Is all this international news for Korea? We live adjacent to nuclear-armed North Korea that once was on the blacklist for supporting terrorist states and Korean nationals are targeted for high-priced hostage ransom for standing on the side of the U.S. and western states. We are high on the list as a terrorism target.

Yet on counterterrorism protection, we are almost naked. France strengthened counterterrorism measures after armed gunmen stampeded into offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in the center of Paris in broad daylight in January of this year and killed 12 people. French police arrested 49-year-old comedian Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala, an eight-year boy, and 52 others on charges of defending or supporting terrorists. Despite criticism about excessive actions and constraint on individual freedoms and privacy, the French legislature passed stronger anti-terrorism measures to authorize police seizure of devices and the shutdown of websites promoting terrorism or inciting terrorist acts. And yet France still could not stop terrorist plots. Evil with resolute purpose can beat law and order.

Our legislators and civilian groups have been opposing an anti-terrorism act that would expand National Intelligence Service authority to track suspicious terrorism activities because of concerns of undermining and invading individual privacy. But as the Paris tragedy underscores, protecting lives should come before privacy. Terrorism in today’s world has evolved into unimaginably advanced brutality with the help of science and technology.

The so-called Patriot Act in the U.S. did not bestow intelligence and law enforcement authorities with new powers but a heavier duty to protect citizens. The law fully titled as the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism encompasses all the necessary laws to ensure the safety of American citizens. The U.S. suffered astronomical economic and human losses after the Sept. 11 attacks. The latest attacks will also bring a heavy toll on the French economy.

The Korean legislature is neglecting its duty to ensure protection of the basic rights of citizens by deferring legislation to prevent and fight terrorism. French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau said without law there is no freedom and that law must be enforced to ensure freedom. He called for continuity, not fixation of the law to better defend freedom.

The local bill would authorize state access to the Internet, mobile communication, capital transactions and pre-emptive actions to prevent terrorism.

Politicians must hasten enactment of anti-terrorism law to protect the lives, properties, and rights of citizens. It is a de facto social welfare law that places the well-being of the citizens first. We sincerely hope the Paris attack will persuade politicians to hurry with establishing the Magna Carta, a charter to guarantee protection of our lives and rights against terrorist threats.

Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.

JoongAng Ilob, Nov. 17, Page 33

The author is a professor at Dongguk University Law School.

by Han Hee-won
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