Thu, May 24, 2007 - Page 7 News List

'War on terror' eroding rights, Amnesty says

BATTLEFIELD EARTHThe rights group focused on the US but also criticized Russia's treatment of journalists and China's attempts to shield Sudan from UN attention


The US is treating the globe as one giant battlefield for its war on terror, eroding rights worldwide, a leading human rights group said yesterday.

Amnesty International secretary-general Irene Khan said the US and its allies' behavior was setting a destructive example for other nations, and that countries across the world were using the war on terror as an excuse to violate human rights and stifle dissent.

"One of the biggest blows to human rights has been the attempt of Western democratic states to roll back some fundamental principles of human rights — like the prohibition of torture," Khan said, speaking before the launch of her organization's annual report on the global state of human rights.

The report condemned the US response to international terrorism, saying it had done little to reduce the threat, while deepening mistrust between Muslims and non-Muslims and undermining the rule of law. The Bush administration's policy of extraordinary rendition — the alleged practice of secretly flying terror suspects to countries where they could be tortured — came in for particularly scathing condemnation.

"The US administration's double speak has been breathtakingly shameless," the report said. "It is unrepentant about the global web of abuse it has spun in the name of counterterrorism."

The US' unique position on the world stage justified the criticism, Khan said.

"If we focus on the US it's because we believe that the US is a country whose enormous influence and power has to be used constructively," she said. "When countries like the US are seen to undermine or ignore human rights, it sends a very powerful message to others."

European countries were attacked for failing to challenge the US rendition scheme, while US allies Britain, Australia, and Japan were singled out for passing harsh new anti-terror or anti-immigration laws.

Russia's crackdown on journalists also attracted Amnesty's ire, as did the deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe, and, above all else, the continuing violence in Darfur, which Khan called "a bleeding wound on world conscience."

"The authoritarian drift in Russia has been devastating for journalists and human rights defenders," the report said, noting the assassination of journalist Anna Politkovskaya and new laws clamping down on rights organizations.

The report also criticized China's role in shielding Sudan from UN action, saying that the Chinese government and companies showed little regard for their "human rights footprint" on the African continent.

But the weakened moral authority of those pushing for international intervention was also to blame, Khan said.

"On the one hand distrust, and on the other hand double dealing has made the UN Security Council dysfunctional on Darfur," she said.

The report did sound some positive notes, saying that a change of the political guard in the US, and the growth of informal networks of activists were grounds for hope.

Khan compared their struggle to the fight against climate change.

"Just as global warming requires global action based on international cooperation, the human rights meltdown can only be tackled through global solidarity and respect for international law," she said.

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