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Amnesty Report Cites Deterioriating Human Rights Situation in Asia

Amnesty International says human rights were on the decline in Asia in 2002. Many violations come in the context of the war against terrorism.

Amnesty International's new report on human rights violations says armed conflict, the post-September 11 crackdown on terrorism, and anti-crime campaigns have led to a deterioration in rights for most Asians.

In China, the group says that arbitrary detentions continue, with tens of thousands of people taken into custody. Many of those detained are members of religious and ethnic minorities, as well as participants in labor protests.

Nicolas Becquelin, a researcher with the group Human Rights in China, agrees with the assessment. While he cites some improvement on personal liberties, such as the right to travel, Mr. Becquelin says the new Chinese leadership has failed to improve many other aspects of human rights.

"There is a systematic strategy of curtailing personal, individual and organization freedoms in China at a time of very rapid changes and challenges coming from globalization, WTO [World Trade Organization], the health crisis," he said.

In Indonesia, Amnesty International says fighting between the government and separatists has resulted in executions, torture and other grave violations.

Munir, leader of the Indonesian human rights group Impartial, says the Army and law enforcement are showing increasing disrespect for people's liberties.

"I think generally now, the human rights situation in Indonesia is getting worse," said Mr. Munir. "Especially now, the military or police in Indonesia doesn't care about human rights protection. Since now they come back like before, against the people with the use of violence and they don't care about the safety of the people."

Amnesty also criticized Australia for a new security law allowing authorities to arrest suspects without legal charges. In addition, Canberra was cited for its policy of mandatory detention for asylum seekers who enter the country illegally.

Despite improvements following the fall of Afghanistan's Taleban regime, Amnesty says serious abuses continue, including arbitrary detention and poor prison conditions.

Pakistan received criticism, in part for handing over terror suspects to the United States without adequate human rights safeguards as well as its continued poor treatment of women.

While the rights group says it believes North Korea is still responsible for grave violations, it adds that a lack of access hampers its monitoring of the situation there.

Amnesty also catalogues numerous and serious problems in Burma but also commends the recent release of some political prisoners there.

Other violators named in the report include Bangladesh, where authorities are said to frequently resort to torture, and Cambodia, where political violence plagued local elections in early 2002.