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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 May, 2003, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Warning over war on terror
Iraq 'could go the way of Afghanistan', Amnesty warns
The "war on terror" has made the world a more dangerous place and created divisions which make conflict more likely, says Amnesty International.

The campaign group used its annual report on Wednesday to accuse governments of trampling over human rights in the name of fighting terrorism.

People around the world feel more insecure now than they have done at any time since the end of the Cold War, says Amnesty.

The human rights watchdog also warns about dangers in the way Iraq is being reshaped in the wake of the war.

Drawing attention to 'hidden' crises, protecting the rights of the 'forgotten victims' is the biggest challenge we face today
Kate Allen
Amnesty International

The report says: "The 'war on terror', far from making the world a safer place, has made it more dangerous by curtailing human rights, undermining the rule of international law and shielding governments from scrutiny."

Launching the report, Amnesty secretary general Irene Khan criticised the UK's Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act.

The measure has allowed the UK to intern 11 foreign nationals without charge in what Amnesty calls "inhuman and degrading conditions".

Ms Khan said: "In the name of security, politics and profit, human rights were trampled the world over by governments, armed groups and corporate activity.

"What would have been unacceptable on September 10, 2001, is now becoming almost the norm.

"What would have been an outrage in Western countries during the Cold War - torture, detention without trial, truncated justice - is readily accepted in some countries today for some people."

'Hidden crises'

Kate Allen, Amnesty's UK director, said the "war on terror" had brought an "overwhelming impact" worldwide.

There had been a "heavy toll on human rights and human lives", she said, with Iraq diverting attention from problems in areas like Cote d'Ivoire, Colombia, Burundi, Chechnya and Nepal.

"Drawing attention to 'hidden' crises, protecting the rights of the 'forgotten victims' is the biggest challenge we face today," said Ms Allen.

"There is a 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."

Ms Allen said the definition of security had to encompass the safety of people as well as states, and that meant a commitment to human rights.

Rising fears

Millions of Afghans, including returning refugees, still face an uncertain future even 18 months after the war in their country ended, says the report.

And it warns that despite the attention given to human rights problems in Israel and the Occupied Territories, these are among the crises receiving the least action from the world community.

The report continues: "Governments have spent billions to strengthen national security and the "war on terror".

"Yet for millions of people, the real sources of insecurity are corruption, repression, discrimination, extreme poverty and preventable diseases."

Right balance?

The report suggests divisions the last year has made people of different faiths and backgrounds more divided, with "genuine fears" prompted across all sections of society.

Amnesty also points to such concerns as the 600-plus suspects being held without charge by the US in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Home Office later hit back at Amnesty's attack on the UK's anti-terror measures.

A spokeswoman said: "The powers are a necessary and proportionate response to the threat that we face.

"We have to strike the right balance between our civil liberties, our privacy and our expectation that the state will protect us and facilitate our freedom."

She said the government was promoting debate about such issues as entitlement cards and regulating surveillance.

The BBC's Andy Tighe
"People around the world are feeling more insecure than at any time since the end of the cold war"

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