- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Amnesty International yesterday accused just about every government in the world of hiding behind the war on terrorism to abuse human rights and said that the United States has "abdicated" its moral leadership in the field.

In its annual report released yesterday, the 41-year-old human rights watchdog put the word "terrorism" in quotation marks because of the lack of an "agreed-upon international definition of terrorism."

"Our report found that human rights violations take place in almost every country in the world," William Schulz, Amnesty's U.S. executive director told reporters at the National Press Club.

"Torture and ill treatment are the most common violations, occurring in 111 countries in 2001," Mr. Schulz said.

After the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington last year, emergency anti-terrorist legislation and changes in trial and detention procedures contributed to an atmosphere of repression and undermined universal principles of human rights, the report said.

"What happened on September 11 was a crime against humanity, a gross human rights violation of thousands of people," Amnesty's secretary-general, Irene Khan, said in London, where the organization is based. But "in the days, weeks and months that followed, governments around the world eroded human rights in the name of security and anti-terrorism."

The report criticized new laws in Western nations, particularly in the United States, Britain and Canada, that make it easier to deport and detain foreign suspects.

It also lashed out at Washington for its decision to bring detainees in Guantanamo Bay captured in Afghanistan before military tribunals.

Amnesty's criticism of the United States, which is traditionally prompted by the death penalty, is much harsher this year.

"The Bush administration believes that human rights are an impediment to national security," Mr. Schulz said. By suggesting that human rights may be compromised in the name of the country's security, it "has diminished its moral authority to criticize blatant human rights transgressions by allies."

Mr. Schulz also said that hundreds of killed civilians in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last year were a "consequence of a White House that neglected the promotion and defense of human rights in its Middle East policy."

Ms. Khan said the "hypocrisy and selectivity" in government policies are nothing new, but they increased among the U.S. allies in the war on terror.

"The same governments that denounced the human rights abuse of women by the Taliban in Afghanistan remained silent about the plight of women in Saudi Arabia," she said. "Those who condemned human rights violations in Iraq did not protest against human rights violations by Russian troops in Chechnya, or by the authorities in Uzbekistan against Muslims who peacefully practice their faith outside state controls."

The report also accused China and Egypt of "jumping on the anti-terrorism bandwagon to stifle political dissent."

Beijing intensified the crackdown on Uighur opponents of Chinese rule in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, while Cairo "clamped down on public gatherings and demonstrations, and sent an increasing number of civilians for trial by military courts," according to the report.

Mr. Schulz singled out Algeria, Nepal, Venezuela and Kenya as "hot spots that generally have avoided the spotlight but where the deteriorating human rights situation is cause for grave concern."

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