Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Human Rights Report Assails U.S.

by Alan Cowell
The New York Times
May 29, 2008

Sixty years after the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, governments in scores of countries still torture or mistreat their people, Amnesty International said Wednesday in a report that again urged the United States to close down the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.

In its annual report, the London-based human rights watchdog said “flashpoints” in Darfur, Zimbabwe, Gaza, Iraq and Myanmar “demand immediate action.”

“World leaders are in a state of denial but their failure to act has a high cost,” Irene Khan, the secretary general of Amnesty International, said in a statement accompanying the report. “As Iraq and Afghanistan show, human rights problems are not isolated tragedies, but are like viruses than can infect and spread rapidly, endangering all of us.”

The report singled out China, the United States, and Russia and accused the European Union of complicity in the extraordinary rendition of terrorism suspects. The European Union it said, must “set the same bar on human rights for its own members as it does for other countries.”

It urged Washington to close down the Guantánamo facility and other ‘’secret detention centers, prosecute the detainees under fair trial standards or release them and unequivocally reject the use of torture and ill-treatment.”

The U.S. State Department had no immediate comment on the Amnesty International allegations, which followed an exhaustive report earlier this month by the Justice Department inspector general in Washington. That review provided the fullest account to date of internal dissent and confusion within the Bush administration over the use of harsh interrogation tactics by the military and the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Pentagon noted that a Defense Department investigation in 2005 found no evidence of torture but called some interrogation tactics degrading and abusive. A spokesman for the C.I.A. said its harsh methods were “found lawful by the Department of Justice itself” and “were employed only when traditional means of questioning — things like rapport-building — were ineffective.”

Criticizing other countries, Amnesty International urged China to ‘’live up to the human rights promises it made around the Olympic Games” and said Russia should ‘’show greater tolerance doe political dissent, and none for immunity on human rights abuses in Chechnya.”

The annual report said people “are still tortured or ill-treated in at least 81 countries, face unfair trials in at least 54 countries and are not allowed to speak freely in at least 77 countries.”

Faced with that tally, the report said, western governments had proven “impotent” to redress human rights abuses while “emerging powers” had shown themselves to be ambivalent or reluctant to “tackle some of the world’s worst human rights crises, ranging from entrenched conflicts to growing equalities which are leaving millions of people behind.”

The report assailed the moral leadership of the United States, saying that, as “the world’s most powerful state” it “sets the standard for government behavior globally.” But, Amnesty International said, the United States had “distinguished itself in recent years through its defiance of international law.”

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

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