War On Terror Called War On Rights

GENERIC Iraq court martial trial justice prisoner abuse
The U.S.-led war on terror has produced the most sustained attack on human rights and international law in 50 years, Amnesty International said in its annual report Wednesday.

The human rights group criticizes both sides, reports CBS News' Larry Miller.

"The war on terror is fueling human rights violations and providing a cloak of human rights violations, and what we're really seeing is a war on global values of human rights being waged by both governments and groups with ordinary people paying the price," said spokesman Richard Bunting.

Irene Khan, secretary general of the human rights group, condemned terrorist assaults by groups such as al Qaeda, saying they posed a threat to the security of people around the world.

But she criticized the response of the U.S.-led "coalition of the willing," saying its powerful governments were ignoring international laws by sacrificing human rights in the "blind pursuit" of security.

The photographs of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, she told a news conference, "is the logical consequence of the pursuit of the war on terror by the United States since 9/11."

"It is the natural outcome of the policy, openly followed by the U.S. administration, to pick and choose which bits of international law it will apply and when," Khan said.

Amnesty International wrote to the British and U.S. governments a year ago detailing reports of torture, ill-treatment, deaths in custody and other abuses in Iraq, she said.

"We have some form of response from the British and none to this date from the Americans," Khan said. "It seems that accountability in Washington D.C. is better generated by Kodak."

The annual report cites the hundreds of foreign nationals who remain in indefinite detention without charge or trial in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It also details alleged unlawful killings of civilians by coalition troops in Iraq and allegations of abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers.

"The global security agenda promoted by the U.S. administration is bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle," Khan said in a statement released before the news conference.

"Violating rights at home, turning a blind eye to abuses abroad, and using pre-emptive military force where and when it chooses have damaged justice and freedom, and made the world a more dangerous place."

The report criticized several governments, including those of Spain, France and Uzbekistan, which it said have introduced "regressive" anti-terrorist legislation and restrictions on freedom since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Britain was singled out for holding 14 foreign nationals under anti-terrorism legislation that allows indefinite detention without charge or trial. The legislation has been criticized by lawmakers, civil rights groups and Muslim associations.

British police disclosed last month that more than half the 572 people arrested in anti-terror raids in Britain since Sept. 11, 2001, have been released without charge, and fewer than one in five have been charged with terrorism-related offenses.

Amnesty also criticized several European nations — including Portugal, Spain, France, Britain, Ireland and Malta — for tough new policies on asylum seekers.

All in all, it claims that 132 countries engage in torture and ill treatment of prisoners, reports Miller.

Khan said she was heartened by millions of people who took to the streets in capitals around the world to protest the war in Iraq, Spaniards who marched following the March 11 terrorist attacks in Madrid, and the World Social Forum in Brazil.

"Governments need to listen," she said. "In times of uncertainty, the world needs not only to fight against global threats but to fight for global justice."

The report also said that Iraq and the war on terror have obscured the greatest human rights challenge in recent history — the tendency of many developing countries to spend billions of dollars a year on weapons instead of tackling poverty.

Khan said there is a risk that U.N. Millennium Development Goals such as reducing child mortality and halving the number of people without access to clean water, will not be achieved because resources have been diverted to the war on terror.

Khan reiterated calls for support of Amnesty International's 2004-2006 plan, adopted at the group's international council meeting in Mexico in August 2003.

It urges governments to resist committing abuses of human rights under the guise of the war on terror, to improve the rights of women, to reform and strengthen the justice system and to abolish the death penalty.