View Full Version : US human rights stance hurts war on terror- report

Jan 14th, 2003, 06:54 PM
14 Jan 2003 17:56
US human rights stance hurts war on terror- report

By Deborah Zabarenko

WASHINGTON, Jan 14 (Reuters) - U.S. neglect of human rights in places like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China and at home is eroding global support for Washington's war on terror, Human Rights Watch reported on Tuesday.

"We're already seeing that the war on terrorism is losing support around the world," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of the human rights group.

"One important reason is the Bush administration is not conducting the war according to human rights principles," Roth said at a news conference releasing the report. "The White House seems to see human rights as an obstacle to the war."

Washington is alienating the very people it needs to cultivate for any war on terror -- those in countries where terrorists reside -- by embracing repressive governments in the countries, he said.

He cited Pakistan, where he said Gen. Pervez Musharraf "has entrenched military rule over the past year."

And he noted that U.S. President George W. Bush had said of Musharraf, "He's still tight with us on the war against terror, and that's what I appreciate."

Given such a stance, Roth said it was not surprising anti-American political parties were the big winners in Pakistan's recent parliamentary elections.

Similarly, the United States rarely challenges regional ally Saudi Arabia on questions of human rights, and discounts repression of Muslims in China's northwest Xinjiang province, which the Chinese government says is an anti-terrorist measure, according to the rights report.


In Afghanistan, the repressive Taliban is gone but the United States has refused to actively support international peacekeepers outside the capital of Kabul, Roth said.

"Instead, what it's trying to do is to buy security on the cheap, by making alliances with warlords such as Ismail Khan, the warlord of the western city of Herat. Khan has used death threats, detention and torture to stamp out all dissent, to muzzle the press and to bundle women back into their burqas," he said.

At home, Roth said the United States has rejected the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war for detainees from Afghanistan, misused the concept of "enemy combatant" to detain criminal suspects and is abusing immigration laws to deny criminal suspects their rights.

Proposed U.S. military tribunals for terror suspects also do not measure up to international human rights standards, Roth said, because "people who report directly to the president would be serving as prosecutor, judge and appellate judge."

The Bush administration has also declared a "virtual war" on the International Criminal Court, attempted to block creation of a global inspection regime to prevent torture and opposed a U.N. resolution on the need to fight terrorism with human rights, he added.

"The United States is far from the world's worst human rights offender but because of America's extraordinary influence, the Bush administration's willingness to compromise human rights while fighting terrorism sets a very dangerous precedent and is counterproductive if we want that fight against terrorism to succeed," Roth said.

In the event of a war on Iraq, Roth said the United States should do everything possible to minimize civilian casualties, and should stop using cluster bombs.

Washington should ensure its local allies do not engage in revenge killings or reprisals against civilians, and should press Iraq's neighbors, including Turkey, Jordan and Iran, to keep borders open to refugees, Roth said.

Jan 14th, 2003, 09:26 PM