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The BBC's Bill Hayton
"Colombia┐s armed forces are heavily criticised"
 real 56k

Thursday, 7 December, 2000, 22:20 GMT
Rights group warns against swamping UN
Jordanian soldier serving with UN force in Sierra Leone
The UN is often underequipped for the problems it faces
By Mark Devenport at the United Nations

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch has said the international community must stop treating the UN as a dumping ground for problems without giving it adequate resources to tackle them.

The blatant impunity for war crimes in Chechnya cried out for accountability, but there was none

Human Rights Watch
In its annual report, Human Rights Watch accuses Russia of disregarding the suffering of civilians in Chechnya.

The organisation is also critical of the United States for its continued refusal to accept a new international criminal court.

The report, which runs to more than 500 pages with detailed sections on around 70 different countries, is published ahead of World Human Rights Day on Sunday.

Lack of will

It accuses Russian army commanders of being responsible for massacres and torture in Chechnya.

Russian soldier in Chechnya
Russian forces in Chechya are 'unaccountable'
And it criticises what it calls the international community's refusal to put pressure on Moscow to bring these senior officers to justice.

"The international community often lamented that it had no significant influence over Russia, but squandered real opportunities for leverage or sanctions in favour of political expediency" Human Rights Watch said.

Other countries singled out include Colombia, where Human Rights Watch claims the army has not severed its links with paramilitaries.

"There was irrefutable evidence that the country's armed forces continued to be implicated in human rights violations as well as in support for the paramilitary groups responsible for the majority of serious abuses," it said.

Israeli soldier taking aim in Hebron
Israelis 'used excessive force' against Palestinians
Indonesia is censured for not reining in the militias in West Timor

And Israel stands accused of using excessive and indiscriminate force against Palestinian civilians.

"Human Rights Watch's investigations in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip in early October revealed a pattern of excessive, and often indiscriminate, use of lethal force by Israeli security forces in situations where demonstrators were unarmed and posed no threat," the report said.

US criticised

The United States does not escape criticism. The report points out that 70 people were executed by the US authorities in the first 10 months of this year.

The storming of the Belgrade parliament
A success: the anti-Milosevic revolution
Human Rights Watch criticised "police brutality, discriminatory racial disparities in incarceration, abusive conditions of confinement and state-sponsored executions, even of juvenile offenders and the mentally handicapped".

It accuses the Republican Presidential candidate, George Bush, of complacency over the high number of executions in his home state of Texas.

Human Rights Watch also says it is troubled by Washington's refusal to co-operate with the establishment of a new international criminal court.

Grounds for hope

But the report is not all negative.

Milosevic's departure from power meant new hope for the rule of law and human rights protections in Serbia

Human Rights Watch
It says there have been positive developments regarding human rights in recent months, including the fall from power of the former Yugoslav leader, Slobodan Milosevic.

"Milosevic's departure from power meant new hope for the rule of law and human rights protections in Serbia," the report said.

In an increasingly inter-connected global economy, the report argues that enforcing basic human rights standards, on matters such as child labour, will prove more and more important.

In order to confront the many challenges facing them, Human Rights Watch says that institutions like the United Nations and the International Labour Organisation need stronger powers and more adequate resources.

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See also:

07 Sep 00 | Americas
UN promises to boost peacekeeping
06 Sep 00 | Americas
Annan opens Millennium Summit
15 Jun 00 | Americas
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09 May 00 | Africa
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