Thu, May 29, 2008 - Page 6 News List

US is no moral leader: Amnesty

CRITICAL The group said that it detected a shift in China's position and called on Beijing and Western countries to work together to break human rights deadlocks


The US is shirking its duty to provide the world with moral leadership, and China is letting its business interests trump human rights concerns in Myanmar and Sudan, a human rights group said yesterday.

Amnesty International’s annual report on the state of the world’s human rights accused the US of failing to provide a moral compass for its international peers, a long-standing complaint the London-based group has had against the North American superpower.

This year it criticized the US for supporting Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf when he imposed a state of emergency, clamped down on the media and sacked judges.

“As the world’s most powerful state, the USA sets the standard for government behavior globally,” the report said, complaining that the US “had distinguished itself in recent years through its defiance of international law.”

As in the past, the US detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, came in for criticism.

Irene Khan, Amnesty’s secretary-general, urged the new US president — due to be elected in November — to announce Guantanamo’s closure on Dec. 10, the 60th anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The US State Department had no immediate comment on the report, but it has previously complained that the group uses the US as “a convenient ideological punching bag.”

China, an emerging power, came in for a few punches, too.

The report said China had continued shipping weapons to Sudan in defiance of a UN arms embargo and trading with countries accused of rights abuses such as Myanmar and Zimbabwe.

It said that China’s suppressive media censorship remains in place and that the government continues to persecute human rights activists.

The report also accused China of expanding its “re-education through labor” program, which allows the government to arrest people and sentence them to manual labor without trial.

But Amnesty said it detected a shift in China’s position: Last year, the country persuaded the Sudanese government to allow UN peacekeepers into Darfur and pressured Myanmar to accept the visit of a UN special envoy.

Khan told The Associated Press that it was much easier to break human rights deadlocks when Western countries and China worked together.

“China has the leverage to work with certain governments,” she said ahead of the report’s launch.

But she added that China needed to use that leverage responsibly.

“China is clearly a global power ... With that comes global responsibility for human rights,” she said. “It needs to recognize that economic growth is not enough.”

A woman who answered the phone at the Foreign Ministry in Beijing said that the ministry would look into the report. She refused to comment further or to give her name or position.

China has rejected previous such reports. It says that its human rights record has improved in recent years.

Amnesty International’s annual checklist of human rights outrages showed that people are still tortured or ill-treated in at least 81 countries.

Men and women also face unfair trials in at least 54 countries and are denied free speech in at least 77, it said.

The report also highlighted an increase in mass demonstrations by people around the world to demand action against poverty.

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