May 25, 2005

We're sure Dubya isn't losing sleep over this.

But it sure bothers us that Amnesty International's 2005 human rights report names the US as one of the world's major human rights violators. The report also cites the selective observance of international law by Dubya's administration — particulary its attitudes toward torture and the treatment of prisoners — as an encouragement for human rights violators worldwide.

Cover of human rights report

Here's some of Amnesty secretary general Irene Khan's speech introducing the report:

[The] overriding message of our report is that: Governments betrayed their promise to fulfil human rights. They failed to show principled leadership through inaction, indifference, erosion of standards, impunity and lack of accountability.

I choose the word "betrayal" deliberately. The gap between the promise and performance of governments, between their duty to uphold human rights and their failure to do so, between their rhetoric to respect human rights and their work to disregard and distort them was so wide in 2004 that I can find no other word to describe it...

In 2004, far from any sign of principled leadership, we saw a new and dangerous agenda in the making, rewriting the rules of human rights, discrediting the institutions of international cooperation and usurping the language of justice and freedom to promote policies that create fear and insecurity.

The US is leading this agenda, with the UK, European states, Australia and other states following.

Under this agenda, accountability is being set aside in favour of impunity; a prime example being the refusal of the US Administration or US Congress to conduct a full and independent investigation of the use of torture and ill treatment by US officials, despite the public outrage over Abu Ghraib and despite the evidence, collected by AI and other, of similar practices in Bagram, Guantanamo and other detention centres under US control.

Another example was the attempt by the UK – thankfully unsuccessfully – (in the Baha Moussa case) to argue that its soldiers in Iraq are not bound by human rights law (notwithstanding Mr. Blair’s claim that they are there to save the Iraqi population from Saddam’s abuses - but obviously not from British ones)

The pick and choose approach to international law is being replaced by a "erode where you can, select if you must and subvert where you will" approach.

The US refuses to apply the Geneva Convention for detainees in Afghanistan. It continues to press for bilateral agreements to provide its citizens immunity from prosecution of the International Criminal Court (Congress [passed] legislation last year to penalise those who refuse).

But nothing shows the disregard of international law as clearly as the attempts by the US, UK and some European countries to set aside the absolute prohibition of torture and ill treatment by re-definition and "rendering" – or the transfer prisoners to regimes that are known to use torture. In effect sub-contracting torture, yet keeping their own hands and conscience clean.

Under this dangerous agenda, justice is not only denied, it is also distorted.... Under this agenda some people are above the law and others are clearly outside it.

Dubya's administration has responded predictably. Check out the following exchange from today's White House press briefing conducted by Scott McClellan:

Q: Scott, Amnesty International report today, saying the U.S. is a top offender of human rights. Does the White House dispute that assessment?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the allegations are ridiculous and unsupported by the facts. The United States is leading the way when it comes to protecting human rights and promoting human dignity. We have liberated 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have worked to advance freedom and democracy in the world so that people are governed under a rule of law and that there are protection -- that there are protections in place for minority rights, that women's rights are advanced so that women can fully participate in societies where now they cannot.

We're also leading the way when it comes to spreading compassion. The United States leads the way when it comes to providing resources to combat the scourge of AIDS. The President put forward his emergency plan for AIDS relief to fight the scourge in Africa and high -- other highly afflicted areas of the world. So I just think it's ridiculous and not supported by the facts when you look at all that we do to promote human rights and promote human dignity in the world.

Q: On various reports of abuse, whether it's at Guantanamo Bay or Afghanistan, you've often said that those are isolated incidents. Are there any U.S. policies, though, in place currently that have lead to those isolated incidences that should be reevaluated?

MR. McCLELLAN: We are a society based on laws and values — it's not just laws, but also values that we hold dearly. And certainly, what you bring up has been a stain on the image of the United States abroad. But if you look at how we address these matters, it shows our commitment to human rights and human dignity. We hold people accountable when there is abuse. We take steps to prevent it from happening again, and we do so in a very public way for the world to see that we lead by example, and that we do have values that we hold very dearly and believe in.

Q: So the current policies aren't contributing to the problem?


Such bald-faced lying in the face of the facts is impressive, on a certain perverse level.

You can download the full report from Amnesty's website if you go here. You can go directly to the report's introduction by clicking here.

If you don't want to read the whole report, the BBC has prepared a PDF file containing an A–Z summary for key countries. It's available here.

Posted by Magpie at May 25, 2005 03:05 PM | Human Rights | Technorati links |

"Bothers"? It pisses me off royally. That there is a streak of slime in this administration at least a Rumsfeld wide -- that they turned white and expected to be caught as Abu Ghraib broke -- and that they then grew bold and even more evil once it became clear that the Senate and House were going to give them a pass -- these things are a stain on our nation and a danger to the ordinary men and women who have been sent out to fight.

War crimes have no statute of limitations, and I can hope that someday a facist hunter, like the Nazi hunters of old, will bring them to justice -- for we have no one left in this country to right wrongs and bring them to justice here.

Posted by: Scorpio at May 26, 2005 09:29 AM