After years of abusing human rights, governments in the Middle East are gradually recognizing that they have to be respected to properly fight terrorism, a U.N. official said Monday.

Martin Scheinin, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, said in Amman that there is a "window of opportunity" in the Mideast following criticism about human rights violations in the fight against terrorism.

"I think there is reason to be optimistic at this historic moment. We had a great backlash for human rights following 9/11 and the Iraq war," he said of the Mideast.

"Some of the damage is permanent. Nevertheless, things are gradually getting a bit better so at least it's recognized now that there is no sustainable fight against terrorism without compliance with human rights," he added

Jordan is hosting the three-day U.N. meeting which has brought together a mix of Arab security officials together and rights activists from 17 countries.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused Jordan and other countries in the region of widespread violations of human rights, including torture of detainees.

"You can get short-term victories by executing people, by imprisoning them, but it only spreads the underlying conditions conducive to terrorism," Scheinin said.

"That's why you must start with compliance to human rights and you will get better results gradually," he added.

The Jordanian representative at the conference, Musa Burayzat, said his nation was balancing between its security needs and upholding rights practices.

"We want to see the standards raised in combating terrorism and the mechanisms use in confronting this issue," he said.