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50 US Labor, Human Rights Groups Join Forces - 2003-12-10

More than 50 American labor and human rights organizations have joined forces and created the US Human Rights Network, to better monitor what they call an alarming increase in the number of human rights violations in the United States since the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Rights groups like Amnesty International and the American Friends Service Committee chose World Human Rights Day to announce the network's creation. They say the primary goal of the U.S. Human Rights Network is to share information on what they say is a persistent and increasing pattern of human rights abuses in the United States.

Participants at the news conference told reporters they will pay close attention to issues like police brutality and the high rates of imprisonment among blacks and Hispanics.

Gregory Nojeim of the American Civil Liberties Union said his group is especially worried about police profiling of people of Middle Eastern descent and about what he called the poor treatment of terror suspects since the September 11 attacks.

"ndividuals apprehended by the United States are said to have been confined in tiny, cold rooms, blindfolded, thrown against walls, bound in painful positions, deprived of sleep, forced to stand for long periods in black hoods and denied medical care as a means of encouraging them to talk. This is not some outrageous human rights group making these allegations: It's the Inspector General of the United States Department of Justice," he said.

Supporters of heightened anti-terrorism measures, including the Patriot Act, signed into law after September 2001, say abuses are not the norm. They maintain that the safeguards to ensure that the innocent are not wrongly accused of terrorist acts remain in place and the enhanced powers given to law enforcement personnel are necessary to protect Americans from further attacks by terrorists.

Ajamu Baraka, an anti-death penalty activist, said members of the new human rights network have yet to determine how best to share information on alleged human rights violations.