Amnesty Accuses U.S. of Human Rights Violations

Amnesty International accused the United States, Russia and China on Thursday of ignoring human rights violations by allies and failing to open their own records to scrutiny in an annual survey meant to pressure governments to act more compassionately.

The human rights organization took the U.S. to task for President Barack Obama's failure - despite promises - to close its prison camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and criticized Russia and China for what it described as blocking international scrutiny of the Sri Lankan government's conduct during its bloody conflict with insurgents.

Amnesty criticized all three nations, and several other Group of 20 countries, for refusing to participate in the International Criminal Court, which is intended to prosecute war criminals.

"China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Turkey and the USA have stood aside from - if not deliberately undermined - international justice efforts," interim Secretary-General Claudio Cordone told The Associated Press.

Nations have yet to issue formal responses to the report, though several have previously stressed the principle of noninterference in other countries' internal affairs.

Amnesty's annual roundup of global human rights abuses urged members of the G-20 - a collection of major industrial countries and fast-growing developing countries - to set an example to the international community by signing up to the International Criminal Court.

The United States and others have refused to ratify the court's founding treaty partly because they fear the court could become a forum for politically motivated prosecutions of troops in unpopular wars like Iraq.

In the U.S., Amnesty said Obama's administration has produced a mixed picture on human rights. Although some progress has been made toward closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, there was little sign that anyone would be held accountable for alleged torture there, Cordone said.

"There were some good signs when they promised to close (Guantanamo)," he said. "However it's still open, and still using military commissions that don't meet international standards."

Obama missed his self-imposed deadline to close the military prison for terror suspects in January. He has not offered a new deadline.

"The president and the administration continue to take steps to close the detention facility as quickly and safely as possible since our commanders have made it clear that it is a national security imperative," U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in an e-mailed response to the report.

Amnesty complained that the U.S. and members of the European Union had obstructed international justice by using their positions on the U.N. Security Council to shield Israel from accountability for war crimes allegedly committed during last year's Gaza war. The group's report listed examples of what it said were war crimes committed by Israeli forces, but did not provide details of sources.

The U.S. State Department said it "supports the need for accountability for any violations that may have occurred in relation to the Gaza conflict by any party.

"As we have said, the responsibility to address alleged abuses during the Gaza conflict lies with the Israelis and the Palestinians," Toner said in the statement.

The rights group said China, Russia and allies of Sri Lanka sitting on the 47-member Human Rights Council helped block legal accountability for the violence and alleged abuses during the final stages of Sri Lanka's civil war last year by voting for a resolution that stressed the war was a "domestic" matter that did not warrant outside interference.

A U.S. State Department report has accused both sides of possible war crimes, and the U.N. estimates that at least 7,000 civilians were killed in fighting. Human rights groups have accused government forces and the Tamil Tiger rebels of deliberately targeting civilians and hospitals.

Those events are a setback to the progress made elsewhere last year in ensuring justice and accountability, Cordone said.

A U.N.-backed genocide tribunal in Cambodia has charged senior Khmer Rouge leaders with war crimes committed in the 1970s, and in Latin America former leaders of Peru and Argentina were convicted for crimes against humanity and torture as investigations into decades-old abuses reopened.

Cordone said increasing activism and rights campaigning in Russia and China are signs of hope, and that the United States also appears to be softening its hostility toward the international court.

"The U.S. stance means that some of those who are opposed to it should have reason to rethink that," he said.
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