Amnesty International accuses governments and
armed groups of fomenting fear to erode human rights and create an increasingly
polarized world. The human rights organization launched its annual report in
London and other world capitals. VOA's Sonja Pace has this report from the
A time of fear is how Amnesty International describes
this past year. Amnesty Secretary-General Irene Kahn spoke of an erosion of
human rights in an increasingly divided and dangerous world.
"In 2006, short-sighted, fear-mongering policies undermined the rule of law
and human rights, fed racism and xenophobia, fueled discrimination, suppressed
dissent, intensified conflict and sowed the seeds of more violence," she said.
Speaking to reporters in London, Kahn outlined some of the main points of the
report, which documents the human rights situation in 153 countries from January
to December 2006.
The U.S.-led war on terror came in for harsh criticism and the report accuses
powerful governments of playing on the public's fear to introduce increasingly
restrictive laws that erode human rights.
"The U.S. administration is treating the world as one giant battlefield for
its war on terror and more evidence surfaced in 2006 to show how suspects were
kidnapped, arrested, detained, tortured and transferred from one secret prison
to another across the world within impunity and with the complicity of allies,"
The report also describes what is says were gross human rights violations
across the Middle East, including Iraq.
"The Iraqi security forces are inciting rather than stopping sectarian
violence. The Iraqi justice system is woefully inadequate and the worst
practices of Saddam Hussein's regime - torture, unfair trials, capital
punishment and rape with impunity are very much alive today," said Kahn.
Kahn asserts that the war on terror and ongoing violence and turmoil in Iraq
have had far reaching effects elsewhere - in that they have diminished U.S.
credibility in the world and limited its efforts to stand up for human rights.
Darfur in Sudan is a case in point, says Khan.
"Darfur is a bleeding
wound on the world's conscience," she said. "The U.S. government has been
outspoken on the need to protect civilians in Darfur and we welcome that very
much. But nothing proves more clearly the loss of U.S. moral authority than its
failure to persuade the Sudanese government to accept U.N. peacekeepers."
The Amnesty report says lack of action by the United States and other U.N.
Security Council members to stop last year's war in Lebanon [between Israel and
the Hezbollah militant group] and to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is
adding to sectarian differences and instability. Kahn cites the ongoing violence
and chaos in Gaza, in particular.
"With renewed military attacks, widespread violence, a strangled economy and
a collapsing Palestinian pre-state, a human rights nightmare is unfolding under
our very eyes while the international community remains complacent," she said.
The Amnesty report's list goes on - repression, detentions, violence against
women around the globe from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, in stable democracies such
as Britain and the United States and in emerging economic powers such as Russia
While the report harshly criticizes the lack of political leadership around
the world to uphold human rights, it praises the work of civil society -
non-government groups, activists and in some instances the media, in
highlighting human rights abuses and holding governments accountable.