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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 May 2006, 10:04 GMT 11:04 UK
West's 'terror deceptions' rapped
Guard at Guantanamo Bay
Amnesty says the public mood on civil liberties is changing
Governments have sacrificed principles and ignored human rights in the name of the "war on terror", says a leading rights group in its annual report.

But Amnesty International celebrates what it calls a "wake-up call" issued to governments over the last year.

It says their "doublespeak and deception have been exposed by the media, challenged by activists and rejected by the courts".

The report highlights crises which it says have been ignored in this climate.

The annual report, totalling some 300 pages, contains detailed country-by-country assessments of human rights violations and advances.

It singles out some regional and national issues as particular areas of concern, including:

  • "Intermittent attention and feeble action" on the part of the UN and African Union to tackle atrocities and find a political solution in Darfur, Sudan
  • Rising number of attacks by armed groups in India, Iraq, Jordan and the UK, which the report says are "inexcusable and unacceptable"
  • Israel's continued expansion of settlements and the construction of the security barrier in the West Bank
  • "Critical levels" of human rights violations by all parties in the Colombia conflict
  • The "hypocrisy" of G8 nations, who espouse eradication of poverty in Africa while continuing to be major suppliers of arms to African nations
  • Human rights abuses under the mantle of "counter-terrorism" policies in Uzbekistan, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Kenya and other African countries

'Backlash against human rights'

But the report's foreword, written by Amnesty International's Secretary-General Irene Khan, reserves much criticism for Western governments, which she says have "paralysed international institutions and squandered public resources in pursuit of narrow security interests".

"Governments profess to champion the cause of human rights but show repressive reflexes when it comes to their own policies and performance," says the report.

The demand for the closure of the detention centre in Guantanamo Bay gained momentum [in 2005]... What was once AI's lone voice in the wilderness has now become a crescendo of condemnation
Foreword, Amnesty International 2005 report

But Ms Khan celebrates "clear signs that a turning point may be in sight after five years of backlash against human rights in the name of counter-terrorism".

She expresses relief that some of the "most outrageous" provisions of legislation introduced by the UK following last's year's London bomb attacks were thrown out - the first parliamentary defeats for Tony Blair as prime minister.

Amnesty highlights the heightened debate in the US over the use of torture and ill-treatment in the so-called "war on terror". It criticises the president's effort to veto a legislative amendment affirming the ban on torture, and the vice-president's attempt to exempt the CIA from the law.

It says badly needed institutional reform was initiated at the UN, with members deciding to replace the "discredited" UN Commission on Human Rights with a Human Rights Council - but criticises the refusal of the US to support it.

The report speaks disparagingly of European governments, saying revelations in 2005 revealed "their role as junior partners" of the US - such as emerging evidence of secret CIA jails in Europe and of hosting flights taking prisoners to countries where they might face torture.

Amnesty welcomed new expressions of opposition to the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The groups cites new threats to civil liberties and rights from US and European governments, but says the "changing public mood" is putting them on the defensive.

There were other reasons for optimism in 2005, the group says, including:

  • The falling number of overall global conflicts, in places like Angola, Liberia and Sierra Leone
  • Growing support for the International Criminal Court, which issued its first indictments for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Uganda
  • The crowds that turned out to urge the G8 to "Make poverty history"
  • The "outpouring of support" from ordinary people to the victims of natural disasters.

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