Amnesty International annual report blasts US

Amnesty International’s 2005 annual report, released today, accuses the US government of damaging human rights worldwide with its attitude to torture and treatment of detainees, which granted “a licence to others to commit abuse with impunity.” The report criticizes the ongoing lack of a full independent investigation into abuses against detainees in US custody in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. The report finds US-led coalition forces in Iraq have engaged in “unlawful killings, torture and other violations,” while Afghanistan is slipping into a “downward spiral of lawlessness and instability.”

The report accuses governments of adhering stubbornly to “politically convenient” but ineffective tactics against terrorism in 2004. The televised beheading of captives in Iraq, the bombing of commuter trains in Madrid and the siege at a school in Beslan, Russia, showed that “four years after 9/11, the promise to make the world a safer place remains hollow,” Amnesty secretary general Irene Khan said.

The report also highlights concerns about:

* A lack of accountability for human rights violations in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo

* The world’s failure to act in Sudan’s Darfur region

* Abuses by Russian forces in Chechnya

* New levels of brutality against civilians by armed groups in Iraq

Amnesty found the US government’s selective disregard for international law and reported abuses of detainees was sending a “permissive signal to abusive governments” across the world. “The US, as the unrivalled political, military and economic hyper-power, sets the tone for governmental behaviour worldwide,” Khan said. “When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a licence to others to commit abuse with impunity.”

The US administration was seeking “to dilute the absolute ban on torture,” Khan added.

Khan also condemned the UN Commission on Human Rights for betraying its mission. “The UN Commission of Human Rights has become a forum for horse-trading on human rights,” she said. “Last year the commission dropped Iraq from scrutiny, could not agree on action on Chechnya, Nepal or Zimbabwe and was silent on Guantanamo Bay.”
In Washington, a White House spokesman branded the allegations “ridiculous and unsupported by the facts.”

Rejecting Amnesty’s charges, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the US investigated all allegations of abuse. “The United States is leading the way when it comes to protecting human rights and promoting human dignity. We have liberated 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have worked to advance freedom and democracy in the world,” he said. (BBC, May 25)

See our last blog post on the ongoing torture scandal.

  1. Israel and the occupied territories: AI
    Governments are betraying their promise of a world order based on human rights and are pursuing a dangerous new agenda, said Amnesty International today as it launched its annual assessment of global human rights. Speaking at the launch of the Amnesty International Report 2005, the organization’s Secretary General Irene Khan said that governments had failed to show principled leadership and must be held to account.

    Israel and the Occupied Territories

    Covering events from January – December 2004

    The Israeli army killed more than 700 Palestinians, including some 150 children. Most were killed unlawfully — in reckless shooting, shelling and air strikes in civilian residential areas; in extrajudicial executions; and as a result of excessive use of force. Palestinian armed groups killed 109 Israelis — 67 of them civilians and including eight children — in suicide bombings, shootings and mortar attacks. Stringent restrictions imposed by the Israeli army on the movement of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories caused widespread poverty and unemployment and hindered access to health and education facilities. The Israeli army destroyed several hundred Palestinian homes, large areas of agricultural land, and infrastructure networks. Israel continued to expand illegal settlements and to build a fence/wall through the West Bank, confining Palestinians in isolated enclaves cut off from their land and essential services in nearby towns and villages. Israeli settlers increased their attacks against Palestinians and their property and against international human rights workers. Certain abuses committed by the Israeli army constituted crimes against humanity and war crimes, including unlawful killings; extensive and wanton destruction of property; obstruction of medical assistance and targeting of medical personnel; torture; and the use of Palestinians as “human shields