Governments using war on terrorism to erode human rights: Amnesty
Tue May 28,10:44 AM ET
By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press Writer
LONDON - The United States and governments around the world have used
the post-Sept. 11 war on terrorism to erode human rights and stifle
political dissent, Amnesty International said Tuesday.
Amnesty Says Human Rights Suffer Since 9-11 (Reuters)
In its annual state-of-the-world report, the organization said emergency
anti-terrorist legislation and changes to trial and detention procedures
had contributed to an atmosphere of repression and undermined universal
principles of human rights.
"What happened on Sept. 11 was a crime against humanity, a gross human
rights violation of thousands of people," said Amnesty's
secretary-general, Irene Khan.
However, she said, "in the days, weeks and months that followed,
governments around the world eroded human rights in the name of security
Among the worrying developments, Amnesty said, were a U.S. proposal to
try some terrorist suspects before military tribunals and new laws in
several nations - including the United States, Britain and Canada -
making it easier to deport or detain foreign suspects.
The London-based rights group said countries from India and Pakistan to
Malaysia and Singapore had introduced repressive security legislation in
the aftermath of Sept. 11.
"Human rights were traded away in almost all parts of the world," Khan
said. "Democratic states jumped on the bandwagon almost as rapidly as
The report, which records human rights abuses in 152 countries during
the year 2001, said Sept. 11 had spawned an atmosphere in which
countries like the United States were unwilling to criticize
anti-terrorist allies with poor human rights records.
"Countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Russia escaped international
scrutiny, undermining the universality of human rights," Khan said.
Khan said the United States was setting a poor example by refusing to
class Taliban and al-Qaida suspects held at the U.S. Navy (news - web
sites)'s Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba as prisoners of war, which would
grant them rights under the Geneva Conventions.
"A very dangerous message is sent when the pillars (of human rights) are
attacked," she said. "The edifice could crumble."
The United States says its tough measures are necessary to smash
al-Qaida and prevent future terrorist attacks like those in New York and
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, U.S. authorities gained new powers of
search, detention and surveillance. More than 1,100 people, mostly Arab
or Muslim men, have been detained as part of an effort to find links to
terrorists. Some have been held in solitary confinement.
Britain also has detained a small number of people under laws that allow
some suspects to be held indefinitely without charge or trial.
"One option is to call Sept. 11 a fluke and to live in a dream world
that requires us to do nothing different," U.S. Attorney General John
Ashcroft (news - web sites) told a Senate committee earlier this year.
"The other option is to fight back."
Amnesty also said the United States and its allies "may have breached
the rules of war" by bombing civilians during the military campaign in
Afghanistan (news - web sites), and said the United States and Britain
"rode roughshod" over human rights by not investigating abuse
Amnesty said many rights violations around the world had been overlooked
"in the glare of Sept. 11," from extrajudicial killings in Colombia and
massacres by Islamic militants in Algeria to the mistreatment of asylum
seekers in Europe and Australia.
The group said many countries had reported a racist backlash against
Arabs and Muslims in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, and a rise
in attacks on Jews as the Middle East crisis worsened.
Amnesty did find some reason for optimism. The number of countries that
impose the death penalty fell from 40 in 1997 to 27 last year.
Amnesty said there was evidence of confirmed or possible extrajudicial
killings by government forces or groups in 47 countries last year, down
from 61 a year earlier.
The group found cases of torture and ill-treatment in 111 countries,
down from 125 in 2000.
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