The governments of the United Kingdom and the United States are often depicted in their responses to the international terrorist threat as destroying traditional human rights and freedoms. I want this evening to explore and indeed challenge that theme, partly through the prism of history and the development of ideas and partly by reflecting on the reality of the challenges that face us today and with which I engage on a daily basis.
I take as my starting point the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognises that the most fundamental human rights are those of life, liberty and security of person. This implies for me that people who are killed or maimed, bereaved or put in fear by terrorists are stripped, cruelly and arbitrarily, of their rights, and that security and safety is the underpinning raison d'être of government.
So the dichotomy which some people seek to establish between the rights of people to be protected against terrorists and their right to enjoy traditional liberties is I believe a false one. It is not a question, therefore, of choosing between rights, but achieving a balance which maintains those rights.
As we confront today the awful prospect of the suicide bomber, we need to continue that crucial and necessary debate - a debate I led in the Commons two weeks ago - about how to maintain that vital balance, and the options we have in maintaining our democratic values, while protecting our democracy.Reuse content