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Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 15:46 GMT
War on terror 'curbing human rights'
Riot police tackle a demonstrator in Argentina
The report highlights the repression of internal dissent
A leading human rights organisation has accused governments around the world of using the US-led war on terrorism as an excuse to carry out repressive policies and crush on internal dissent.

A report by the US-based Human Rights Watch singles out Russia, Uzbekistan and Egypt as the main offenders, saying they are waging wars against political opponents who they claim are terrorists.

Terrorists believe that anything goes in the name of their cause. The fight against terror must not buy into that logic

Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch
The report also says the United States and its western allies are turning a blind eye to abuses in friendly countries in return for their support in the campaign against terror.

However, it adds that progress has been made towards curbing human rights abuses, such as the trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and indictment of former Chilean military ruler Augusto Pinochet.

"Terrorists believe that anything goes in the name of their cause. The fight against terror must not buy into that logic," said Kenneth Roth, the organisation's executive director.

The report condemns the 11 September attacks on America, calling it "antithetical to the values of human rights".

"Whether in time of peace or war... certain means are never justified, no matter what the ends," it says.


The organisation says it was concerned that following the attacks, many governments tried to take advantage of the situation "by touting their own internal struggles as battles against terrorism".

Areas of progress
Surrender of Slobodan Milosevic for trail
Highlighting caste-based discrimination at world racism forum
Outlawing child soldiers

It accuses the US and its western allies of a "shameful silence" over abuses carried out in the Middle East and North Africa, ostensibly in the fight against extremists.

Saudi Arabia, it says, "imposes strict limits on civil society, severely discriminates against women, and systematically suppresses dissent," while Egypt "does all it can to suffocate peaceful political opposition".

The report claims that since 11 September, the US has toned down its criticism of human rights abuses by Russia in Chechnya and played up alleged links between Chechen rebels and Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror network.

Areas of concern
WTO disregard for labour rights
Slow progress in setting up international tribunals
Continuing civilian victims of wars

Russian President Vladimir Putin had embraced the anti-terrorism rhetoric to defend his government's "brutal campaign" in the breakaway republic, it says.

New restrictions in the US, such as proposed military tribunals for suspected terrorists, could compromise America's credibility in opposing human rights abuses elsewhere, the report adds.

Afghanistan 'litmus test'

The report says the future shape of Afghanistan will test the anti-terror coalition's commitment to human rights.

While the defeat of the Taleban had created an opportunity for positive change, "many of the forces vying to replace the Taleban, including elements of the Northern Alliance, also have horrendous human rights records".

The international community should work to end discrimination against women in Afghanistan and collect evidence of abuses by all Afghan factions that could be used against suspects in court, the report adds..

Good and bad

According to the 670-page report, which covers 66 countries, one of the worst abusers of human rights is Uzbekistan.

Uzbek woman and child
Uzbekistan is singled out as one of the worst abusers of human rights

The report says the country has no political parties or independent media and sanctions the torture of Muslims caught praying outside the state-run mosque.

However, the report notes that there are some examples of progress in respect for human rights.

Morocco and Jordan have become more open societies, it says, while Qatar and Bahrain have promised to hold elections.

And Iran has shown a gradual political liberalisation and allowed the emergence of a movement demanding respect for civil liberties.

"But if the West continues to accept repression as the best defence against radical policies, it will undermine the human rights culture that is needed in the long run to defeat terrorism," the report concludes.

The BBC's Tom Carver
"It sends the message... if America can do this, so can we"
The BBC's Rob Watson
"Western governments do not like being criticised"
Report's author Tom Malinowski
"There has been a muting of criticism since 11 September"
See also:

16 Jan 02 | Americas
UN concern for US Afghan captives
30 Nov 01 | Middle East
Palestinians accused of rights abuses
10 Oct 01 | South Asia
Ethnic divisions fuel Afghan fears
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