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White House Rejects Amnesty International Criticism - 2004-05-26


The Bush administration Wednesday rejected criticism from Amnesty International that the U.S.-led war on terrorism and invasion of Iraq have sacrificed human rights considerations in the name of security. The White House countered that U.S. actions have liberated the people of Iraq and Afghanistan and afforded them human rights protections.

Administration officials are being careful not to criticize Amnesty International itself, saying the United States has a continual dialogue with the human rights organization and takes its reports seriously.

But they say they strongly disagree with the assertions in Amnesty's annual report that the United States has sacrificed human rights in the name of security at home and turned a "blind eye" to abuses abroad by its allies in the terror war.

At a news briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher dismissed as a "sound bite" a statement by Amnesty Secretary-General Irene Khan that the Bush administration's security agenda is "bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle."

Mr. Boucher said President Bush has enunciated a "very clear vision defending civilization and society from people who want only destruction," and he said the application and extension of the rule of law is a fundamental part of the war on terrorism.

"I think the essential thing that we've done is to take away the places in the world where the rule of law did not apply, where terrorists had freedom to run around and plot and plan, with the connivance, support or neglect of a local government," he said. "And in many cases around the world, you can see that that's no longer possible."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said this has meant the "liberation" of 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq and the provision to them of the kind of human rights protections enjoyed by Americans.

In his comments, Mr. Boucher said the United States has "not lessened in any way" its concern for human rights, and has continued to raise rights issues and individual cases with foreign leaders including those closely allied with Washington in the war on terrorism.

He also again defended U.S. handling of the prisoner mistreatment scandal at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, which was cited by Amnesty as a "logical consequence" of excesses of the anti-terror campaign.

The spokesman said the United States recognizes the abuses at the Baghdad facility by U.S. soldiers and has a "firm" process under way for identifying and punishing those responsible. "Justice," he said "is being served and will be served in that matter."

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