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Amnesty International: Human Rights Abuses Continue Across Asia - 2004-05-26

Rights watchdog Amnesty International says human rights abuses continue across Asia, and are increasing in some areas because of armed conflicts.

Amnesty International says Asia's commitment to human rights protection still falls short, and many governments fail to provide a legal framework to protect rights.

The Amnesty report criticizes what it termed "regressive anti-terror legislation," inadequate protection for refugees and restrictions on freedom of association and expression around the region.

The report said Asia continues to be the only area without a regional human rights mechanism, and many Asian governments have been reluctant to ratify key international human-rights agreements.

Catherine Baber, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Asia-Pacific program, says rights protections have been deteriorating across the region.

"We see a marked deterioration in respect for international human rights principles within the war on terror in the region; also increasing impunity for attacks on ethnic and religious groups, minority groups across the region," she said.

The Amnesty report accuses China, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Thailand of using the war on terror to curtail human rights.

In Pakistan, the report says over 500 people have been arbitrarily arrested and handed over to U.S. authorities on suspicion of having ties to the al Qaida terror network or the former Taleban regime in Afghanistan.

The report also accuses India of illegally detaining hundreds of members of the Muslim community in the state of Gujarat.

Muslims in China's Uighur community face discrimination, the report says, with many people falsely accused of being "terrorists and religious extremists."

The report took a swipe at the widening economic disparity between China's cities and rural areas, saying that poor rural women are forced to look for work in the cities, often to face abuse and poor working conditions.

The Maldives, China, Burma and Vietnam were all accused of holding large numbers of prisoners of conscience for their political beliefs.

Amnesty says there are still 1,300 prisoners of conscience held in Burma, including some 200 on death row.

In Afghanistan, Amnesty says it is concerned about, what it calls, long-term arbitrary detentions at detention centers run by the U.S. military, particularly because the rights group has not been able to visit prisoners.