In its annual assessment of human rights violations on a global scale, Amnesty International is blaming both armed groups and governments for perpetuating what it calls the most sustained on attack on basic values and international humanitarian law seen in 50 years.
In a blistering report, the London-based human rights group says during the past 12 months, the world has been caught up in the a global struggle pitting extremists like al Qaida against countries like the United States.
Amnesty's Secretary-General, Irene Khan, says the price being paid is the erosion of human rights all over the world, and she blames both sides for the degradation of what she calls, basic global values.
"Amnesty's report 2004, which we are launching today, reflects the voices of millions of ordinary people, who are paying a heavy price for a war on global values, global standards and global institutions - a war which is being waged with equal vigor by governments and armed groups, each feeding each the other in a vicious downward spiral of violence," she said.
At the London news conference, Ms. Khan strongly attacked extremism around the world.
"We condemn the cruel, callous, and criminal attacks of armed groups whether FARC or Hamas or al Qaida, or any other in the strongest possible terms," said Irene Khan. "We deemed them, or at least some of them, as crimes against humanity and asked for those who committed them to be brought to justice."
But the Amnesty chief accuses some governments of, "fighting terror with terror." And she says they simply provide a breeding ground for more violence.
"By sacrificing the global values of human rights in a blind pursuit of security, governments we believe are losing the moral compass," she said. "And this failure of leadership is a dangerous concession to armed groups. And nowhere has that failure been clearer than in Iraq and in the context of the U.S.-led war against terrorism.
Irene Khan says the war on terror has, in effect, resulted in abuse in the name of freedom in dozens of countries.
But the United States receives the most criticism in the 339-page document, which details the human rights situation in 157 nations and territories.
"The pictures from Abu Ghraib have caused universal revulsion, but we should not be surprised by what we are seeing," continued Iren Khan. "This is the logical consequence of the relentless pursuit of the war on terror by the United States since 9/11."
Ms. Khan says Amnesty International issued reports to the U.S. administration nearly a year ago about the alleged torture and mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq, as well as deaths in custody, civilian killings, and other problems. She says Amnesty never received a response.