US behind ‘the worst attack on rights for 50 years’

The United States-led war on terror has produced the most sustained attack on human rights and international law in 50 years, Amnesty International said in its annual report yesterday.

America vs. Human Rights

“The United States has long regarded itself as a beacon of human rights, as evidenced by an enlightened constitution, judicial independence, and a civil society grounded in strong traditions of free speech and press freedom. But the reality is more complex; for decades, civil rights and civil liberties groups have exposed constitutional violations and challenged abusive policies and practices. In recent years, as well, international human rights monitors have documented serious gaps in U.S. protections of the human rights of vulnerable groups. Both federal and state governments have nonetheless resisted applying to the U.S. the standards that, rightly, the U.S. applies elsewhere.”
Human Rights Watch

Irene Khan, the secretary general of the human rights group, condemned terrorist assaults by groups such as al-Qaeda, saying they posed a threat to the security of people around the world.

But she criticised the response of the US-led “coalition of the willing” saying its powerful governments were ignoring international laws by sacrificing human rights in the “blind pursuit” of security.

The photographs of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, she told a news conference, “is the logical consequence of the pursuit of the war on terror by the United States since 9/11”.
“It is the natural outcome of the policy, openly followed by the US administration, to pick and choose which bits of international law it will apply and when,” Ms Khan said.

The White House spokesman Scott McClellan dismissed the report.

“The war on terrorism has protected the human rights of some 25 million people in Afghanistan, and some 25 million people in Iraq,” he said in Washington yesterday.

“The war on terror has led to the liberation of some 50 million people in those countries, and the United States is a leader when it comes to protecting human rights, and we will continue to be.”

Amnesty International wrote to the British and US governments a year ago detailing reports of torture, ill-treatment, deaths in custody and other abuses in Iraq, Ms Khan said.

“We have some form of response from the British and none to this date from the Americans,” she said. “It seems that accountability in Washington DC is better generated by Kodak.”

The annual report cites the hundreds of foreign nationals who remain in indefinite detention, without charge or trial, in US custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

It also details alleged unlawful killings of civilians by coalition troops in Iraq and allegations of abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers.

“The global security agenda promoted by the US administration is bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle,” Ms Khan said.

“Violating rights at home, turning a blind eye to abuses abroad, and using pre-emptive military force where and when it chooses have damaged justice and freedom, and made the world a more dangerous place.”

The report criticised several governments, including those of Spain, France and Uzbekistan, which it said have introduced “regressive” anti-terrorist legislation and restrictions on freedom since the terrorist attacks of 11 September, 2001.

Britain was singled out for holding 14 foreign nationals under anti-terrorism legislation that allows indefinite detention without charge or trial.

The legislation has been criticised by lawmakers, civil rights groups and Muslim associations.

British police disclosed last month that more than half the 572 people arrested in anti- terrorism raids in Britain since 11 September, 2001, have been released without charge, and fewer than one in five has been charged with terrorism-related offences.

Amnesty also criticised several European nations – including Portugal, Spain, France, Britain, Ireland and Malta – for tough new policies on asylum seekers.

Ms Khan said she was heartened by millions of people who took to the streets in capitals around the world to protest against the war in Iraq, Spaniards who marched following the 11 March terrorist attacks in Madrid, and the World Social Forum in Brazil.

“Governments need to listen,” she said.

“In times of uncertainty, the world needs not only to fight against global threats but to fight for global justice.”

Ms Khan said there is a risk that the UN’s “Millennium Development Goals” including reducing child mortality and halving the number of people without access to clean water, will not be achieved because resources have been diverted to the war on terror.

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The Scotsman, UK
May 27, 2004
Jane Wardell in London

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday May 28, 2004.
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