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Fighting terror

Group cites erosion of rights

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 17, 2003

VIENNA, Austria -- Antiterrorism measures introduced since the Sept. 11 attacks are severely curtailing human rights and civil liberties in much of the world, a watchdog group said Wednesday.

The measures often threaten freedoms because they are too broad, too vague and applied too arbitrarily, the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights contended.

"We are accomplishing the goal that (terrorists) are allegedly pursuing," said Aaron Rhodes, director of the federation.

Limited breaches of human rights would be expected in an emergency situation, Rhodes said. But governments in the post-Sept. 11 era have failed to "minimize the erosion of rights."

Since Sept. 11, a report says, countries have increased powers of law enforcement and intelligence institutions; introduced measures allowing authorities to intercept private communications and search homes without safeguards; tightened border controls; introduced firmer asylum and immigration laws; and authorized registration and profiling schemes that appear to target certain groups because of their race, ethnicity or religion.

NATO to take over Afghanistan command

BRUSSELS -- NATO agreed Wednesday to take command of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan.

Ambassadors for the 19 alliance members approved requests that it run a command headquarters for the ongoing operation in the Afghan capital Kabul, said NATO spokesman Yves Brodeur.

He said Germany asked NATO take over the mission -- now under joint Dutch-German command -- for the sake of continuity. Command had rotated every six months. The handover could take place by late summer.

Elsewhere ...

PLANT THREATS: More than 100 chemical plants throughout the United States each could expose millions of people to dangerous concentrations of toxic gas in the event of a terrorist attack or major accident, according to industry documents filed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Neighborhoods, schools and hospitals lie within the areas in which people could be harmed by gases.

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