Press Release
April 7, 2000


HLP/IED today denounced the attempt to discredit legitimate self-determination struggles or civil wars by labelling them "ethnic", "religious", or "terrorist." In a statement by Karen Parker, head of the delegation, HLP/IED argued that many countries, including the United States, India, Turkey, Sri Lanka, and China, attempt this rhetorical move so as to absolve themselves of the requirements placed on them by international humanitarian law.

In India, she declared, the label "Islamic terrorists" has been applied by the Indian government to the Kashmiri resistance, when the issue at stake is really the political status of Kashmir and the plebiscite process mandated by the UN Security Council but which India has refused to allow. In fact, the Kashmiri resistance to Indian military occupation, some of which is not even Muslim, is an established combatant force fully protected and obligated under humanitarian law. Further, in absence of the plebiscite, Kashmir cannot legally belong to India.

Parker also brought up the case of Turkey, where the Turkish government, with the support of the United States, has waged a campaign to discredit the PKK by designating it a "terrorist organization" in what she called "an affront to humanitarian law." In Los Angeles, IED/HLP President Ralph Fertig described how the Kurdish civilian population is being terrorized by the Turkish armed forces using arms provided by the United States, while the PKK forces are afforded none of the protections that are theirs under humanitarian law.

China, IED/HLP argued, is using the same policy in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, or East Turkestan. IED/HLP Uighur specialist Adam Branch, who has visited the area, stated "Under the cover of a campaign against 'terrorists', the Chinese government has, in the last three years alone, executed more than 250 Uighur political dissidents and imprisoned literally thousands. Needless to say, they are also killing any chance of peaceful democratic change in the region."

After her statement, Parker described the legal repercussions of the misuse of the term "terrorist." "There are very clear international legal demarcations between 'terrorists' and legitimate armed combatants, and the abuse of the term 'terrorist' for political reasons is itself a violation of humanitarian law. If these nations are allowed to call any enemy they deem politically exigent a 'terrorist' and thus escape the dictates of humanitarian law, the law itself will soon be eviscerated."