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Poor, Powerless Pay 'War on Terror'
Amnesty International presents report on human rights
James Fontanella (Fontanella)     Print Article 
Published 2006-05-24 08:18 (KST)   
The "war on terror" ignited by powerful governments is undermining human rights, and "the heaviest price is being paid by the poor and powerless," said Amnesty International on Tuesday.

Presenting the AI annual report on human rights in London, Secretary-General Irene Khan hit those governments hard that do not comply with international law and compromise fundamental principles for the sake of the "war on terror."

"Governments collectively and individually (have) paralyzed international institutions and squandered public resources in pursuit of narrow security interests, sacrificed principles in the name of the 'war on terror' and (have) turned a blind eye to massive human rights violations. As a result, the world has paid a heavy price, in terms of (the) erosion of fundamental principles and in the enormous damage done to the lives and livelihoods of ordinary people," said Ms. Khan.

The secretary-general said expressly that terrorism and government torture are comparable evils and that we cannot justify one to fight the other, especially if this comes at unbearable costs to our freedoms.

"Just as we must condemn terrorist attacks on civilians in the strongest possible terms, we must resist claims by governments that terror can be fought with torture. Such claims are misleading, dangerous and wrong — you cannot extinguish a fire with petrol," said Ms. Khan.

In this respect, AI has demanded the U.S. administration close all illegal prisons, especially Guantanamo Bay, the "terrorist combatant" detention center, where torture is practiced, although the U.S. denies it, and detainees are held without trial. The report said that over 790 people have been detained in Guantanamo Bay and that none of these has been convicted of any criminal offence.

This demand comes after the U.N. and the U.K. government began to campaign for the shutdown of the facility.

She said, however, that both nation-states and international institutions have to do more in order to address human rights concerns arising from the illegal war on terror.

"Sadly, instead of accepting and welcoming the efforts of courts and legislatures to reinstate respect for fundamental human rights principles, some governments attempted to find new ways to dodge obligations," stated Ms. Khan.

"When the U.K. government remains mute on arbitrary detention and ill-treatment in Guantanamo, when the United States ignores the absolute prohibition on torture, when European governments are mute about their record on renditions, racism or refugees, they undermine their own moral authority to champion human rights elsewhere in the world."

According to her, mature democracies should play a key role in the implementation of human rights and should not close their eyes as they have done in the past.

Exhorting the U.N. and international community to a commitment to greater awareness of the conflicts in the world Ms. Khan demanded intervention and help for the Darfur region in Sudan, which has witnessed crimes against humanity and the massive displacement of people and families.

"Those who bear the greatest responsibility for safeguarding global security in the U.N. Security Council proved in 2005 to be the most willing to paralyze the Council and prevent it from taking effective action on human rights," she added.

"Permanent members of the U.N. Security Council as well as those who aspire to such membership (have) to behave with responsibility and respect for human rights. Governments must stop playing games with human rights."
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter James Fontanella

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