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Human rights group faults U.S. war on terror

Published May 24, 2007


LONDON - In its fight against terrorism, the United States has eroded rights worldwide, Amnesty International said Wednesday.

In its annual report, the London-based rights group said politicians around the world - from Australia to Sudan - were taking advantage of shortsighted U.S. leadership in a fight against global terrorism that had sacrificed individual liberties.

"One of the biggest blows to human rights has been the attempt of Western democratic states to roll back some fundamental principles of human rights - like the prohibition of torture, " Amnesty's Secretary-General Irene Khan told the Associated Press before the report's launch. She also criticized the U.S. policy of extraordinary rendition.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Amnesty's time would have been better spent on helping Iraq deal with past rights abuses.

"It's pretty clear that Amnesty International thought that we'd make a convenient ideological punching bag, " Casey said.

America's position in the world justified the criticism, Khan said.

"If we focus on the U.S. it's because we believe that the U.S. is a country whose enormous influence and power has to be used constructively, " she said. "When countries like the U.S. are seen to undermine or ignore human rights, it sends a very powerful message to others."

The report noted that a new Army Field Manual - which bans the use of dogs, hooding and sexual humiliation in interrogations - did not apply to CIA-run detention facilities.

Others criticized, too

EUROPE: European countries were accused of failing to challenge the U.S. military putting terror suspects on secret flights to third countries for interrogations. Britain, Australia and Japan were singled out for passing harsh new antiterror laws.

RUSSIA: The country's authoritarian drift attracted Amnesty's attention. Journalists, human rights defenders and others were devastated by a government crackdown on civil society, the report said, pointing to the assassination of journalist Anna Politkovskaya and the abduction of civilians in Chechnya.

ZIMBABWE AND SUDAN: Khan noted the deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe and Sudan's Darfur region, which she called "a bleeding wound on world conscience."

CHINA: The report criticized China's role in shielding Sudan from U.N. action, saying the Chinese government and companies showed little regard for their "human rights footprint" on the African continent.

ISRAEL: Amnesty said Israel's army killed more than 650 Palestinians last year - half of them unarmed civilians, including some 120 children. It said Israel had deepened the poverty in Palestinian territories by withholding customs duties and widening a network of blockades. The number of Israelis killed by Palestinian armed groups diminished by half last year, to 27, including 20 civilian adults and one child, the report said.

[Last modified May 24, 2007, 01:47:51]

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