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Amnesty: 'War on Terror' Has Made World Worse
By By Gideon Long
Reuters
May 28, 2003

LONDON (Reuters) - Washington's "war on terror" has made the world more dangerous by curbing human rights, undermining international law and shielding governments from scrutiny, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

Releasing its annual report into global human rights abuses in 2002, the London-based watchdog made one of its fiercest attacks yet on the policies pursued by the United States and Britain in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.

If the war on terror was supposed to make the world safer, it has failed, and has given governments an excuse to abuse human rights in the name of state security, it said.

"What would have been unacceptable on September 10, 2001, is now becoming almost the norm," Amnesty's Secretary-General Irene Khan told a news conference, accusing Washington of adopting "a new doctrine of human rights a la carte."

"The United States continues to pick and choose which bits of its obligations under international law it will use, and when it will use them," she said, highlighting the detention without charge or trial of hundreds of prisoners in Afghanistan (news - web sites) and in a U.S. military camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"By putting these detainees into a legal black hole, the U.S. administration appeared to continue to support a world where arbitrary unchallengeable detention becomes acceptable."

Amnesty urged the world to do more to sort out Iraq (news - web sites)'s problems now the Gulf War (news - web sites) is over.

"There is a very real risk that Iraq will go the way of Afghanistan if no genuine effort is made to heed the call of the Iraqi people for law and order and full respect of human rights," Khan said.

"Afghanistan does not present a record of which the international community can be proud."

Amnesty's 311-page report was not concerned solely with the crises triggered by the attacks of September 11.

It said the intense media focus on Afghanistan and Iraq in 2002 meant human rights abuses in Ivory Coast, Colombia, Burundi, Chechnya (news - web sites) and Nepal had gone largely unnoticed.

Amnesty said the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (news - web sites) remained "bleak, with continuing fighting and attacks on civilians."

"In Burundi, government forces carried out extrajudicial killings, 'disappearances', torture and other serious violations," it said.

Amnesty said the Colombian government had "exacerbated the spiraling cycle of political violence" by introducing new security measures.

It accused Israel of committing war crimes in the occupied territories and the Palestinians of committing crimes against humanity by targeting civilians in suicide bombings.

"At least 1,000 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army (in 2002), most of them unlawfully," it said. "Palestinian armed groups killed more than 420 Israelis, at least 265 of them civilians..."

Khan said it was vital that the world "resist the manipulation of fear and challenge the narrow focus of the security agenda."

"The definition of security must be broadened to encompass the security of people, as well as states," she said.

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