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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 May, 2004, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
Report: 'US war on terror bankrupt'
By Elizabeth Blunt
BBC World Service

Human rights organisation Amnesty International (AI) has issued an annual report in which the United States' war on terror is criticised as bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle.

Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay
Guantanamo: The report describes a pattern of arbitrary and incommunicado detention
The last year has seen "the most sustained attack on human rights and international humanitarian law in 50 years", AI says.

Its annual report notes a lively debate in the Arab world on issues of political, legal and judicial reform.

It goes on to say that despite this, grave human rights violations continued across the region.


In the Arab world, 2003 was a year of dramatic events, and one which raised serious human rights issues.

The global security agenda promulgated by the US administration is bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle; using pre-emptive military force where and when [the US] chooses has neither increased security nor ensured liberty
Irene Khan
Amnesty International secretary general

AI calls on the US and the other occupying powers in Iraq to abide by their obligations in the face of what it calls a pattern of arbitrary and incommunicado detention, ill-treatment and the excessive use of force by the occupying forces.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Amnesty's Secretary General Irene Khan said the abuses in Abu Ghraib jail should have surprised no-one, since it was the logical consequence of the relentless pursuit of global security and the so-called war on terror.

Israel and the Palestinians

As well as the new conflict in Iraq, 2003 brought more violence and human rights abuses in Israel and the occupied territories.

The reports says that the grim toll of killings, including killings of children, continued to rise - around 600 Palestinians killed by the Israeli army; around 200 Israeli victims, many the victims of suicide bombings.

Although the list of accusations against the Israeli authorities is a long one - including detentions without charge, torture and ill treatment of detainees, military trials which fell short of international standards - the report also criticises the Palestinian Authority for detentions without charge and the extrajudicial killings of supposed collaborators.

Political debate

Away from these dramatic events, Amnesty International continues to follow the widespread debate about political and legal reform in the Middle East and North Africa.

But it says that despite government promises of reform, human rights violations continued.

There were arbitrary political arrests and detentions in many countries, prisoners were held incommunicado for long periods, tortured and ill-treated, and the minimum standards for fair trials were often disregarded.

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