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CHOCO
Jan 14th, 2003, 09:30 PM
Human Rights Watch: U.S. undermines its own war on terrorism
By FRANK DAVIES
fdavies@herald.com

WASHINGTON - The United States is undermining its own war on terrorism by turning its back on human rights abuses in countries that are nominal allies against terrorists, according to Human Rights Watch in its annual report released Tuesday.

Pakistan, Indonesia, Russia, China and several central Asian republics have avoided U.S. scrutiny and criticism of their rights records by aiding anti-terrorist efforts, but that creates long-term problems, said Kenneth Roth, executive director of the international rights group.

''Our message is one of pragmatism,'' Roth said. ``When the United States is indifferent to rights abuses from these governments, you can't gain the support of people who identify the United States with repressive regimes.''

In its survey of conditions in 58 countries, the 558-page report also criticized U.S. handling of ''enemy combatants'' and terrorist suspects held in Guantánamo, Cuba, as a ''legal black hole'' that was setting a bad example for the rest of the world.

''The Bush administration had better reject the argument that the ends justify the means, or they will be buying into the same warped logic that terrorists use,'' Roth said.

The Bush administration disputed the report, saying that U.S. policy in Afghanistan and elsewhere was to protect peoples' rights.

''Wherever America goes, we always make it a practice to pursue policies that help advance human rights everywhere around the world,'' said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

In Afghanistan, with the demise of the Taliban government, ''many people who were oppressed are now free,'' Fleischer said.

THE REPORT: The entire 2002 report is available on Human Rights Watch's Web site: www.hrw.org. It's easily accessible by region and country.