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.