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Amnesty Report:  More Insecurity Worldwide Despite US Crackdown on Terror - 2003-05-28

An international human rights organization says the U.S. war on terrorism has aggravated a bad human rights situation in many parts of the world.

Amnesty International's annual report on human rights says the struggle against terrorism in 2002 resulted in governments undermining human rights in the name of national security.

In addition, says Bill Schulz, director of Amnesty International USA, the United States has spent billions to rectify human rights abuses in Iraq, while paying insufficient attention to them elsewhere.

"It is not acceptable to win freedom for one at the expense of another," he said.

Mr. Schulz noted U.S. funds were granted to Ethiopia and the Philippines after their cooperation in the war on Iraq, despite the fact that both countries' armies have committed abuses against civilians.

Amnesty also accuses the United States of human rights violations for holding some 600 terror suspects at the Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says the allegation is without merit.

"The prisoners in Guantanamo are being treated humanely, they are receiving medical care, they are receiving food, they are receiving far better treatment than they received in the life they were living previously," he said.

The Amnesty report also accuses the Colombian government of perpetrating crimes against civilians through its armed conflict involving guerrilla fighters and paramilitary forces. Mr. Schulz says every day brings an average of 20 killings.

"While armed opposition groups bear significant responsibility for the violence, there is no question that through the military and its paramilitary allies, the government continues to put civilians at risk," he said.

The report also highlights human rights abuses in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nepal, Russia, and other countries in Central Asia.

It notes that at least 28 nations carried out death penalties in 2002, including China and the United States; and 42 countries are suspected of having hosted extra-judicial executions.

But there is good news as well. Amnesty notes some positive signs in the Middle East peace process, although it says there can be no lasting peace without respect for human rights. It has also published a list of prisoners of conscience - political activists, journalists, and human rights workers among them - who were released from custody in the past year.