A human rights group said on Wednesday that torture and other abuses committed by the United States in its war on terrorism have damaged American credibility and hurt the global human rights cause.
In a survey of world conditions, U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said Washington should appoint a special prosecutor and Congress should set up an independent panel to investigate U.S. abuses. The annual report covered rights developments in more than 70 countries.
“The U.S. government’s use and defense of torture and inhumane treatment played the largest role in undermining Washington’s ability to promote human rights,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.
President George W. Bush’s administration has come under heavy criticism from rights groups at home and abroad, and from many foreign governments, over how it has handled the interrogation and detention of suspects in the war on terrorism Washington launched after the September 11 attacks.
The 532-page report said efforts by U.S. officials in 2005 to defend inhumane interrogation methods or seek exemptions from planned anti-torture legislation showed the “U.S. government’s embrace of torture and inhumane treatment began at the top.”
“Fighting terrorism is central to the human rights cause,” Roth said in an introductory essay. “But using illegal tactics against alleged terrorists is both wrong and counterproductive.”
Human Rights Watch said the United States faced accusations of hypocrisy as it tackled 2005 troubles such as the massacre of hundreds of demonstrators in Uzbekistan, ethnic cleansing in Darfur, Sudan and severe repression in countries such as Myanmar, North Korea, Turkmenistan, China and Zimbabwe.
“Even when the administration spoke out in defense of human rights or acted commendably, its initiatives made less headway as a result of the credibility gap,” the report said.
It said the credibility gap was reflected in muted U.S. criticism of abuses in Egypt, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
A ‘GLOBAL LEADERSHIP VOID’
But the group was also critical of some Western U.S. allies.
Human Rights Watch also criticized Britain for trying to send terrorism suspects to countries where they faced torture and said Canada had tried to dilute a new treaty outlawing enforced disappearances.
Those practices by U.S. allies — combined with the European Union’s practice of subordinating human rights to trade in its relationships with many rights offenders — left a “global leadership void” in defending human rights.
“Sadly, Russia and China were all too happy to fill that void by building economic, political, and military alliances without regard to the human rights practices of their partners.” the report said.
Russia, trying to counter democratic currents in former Soviet states, and China, seeking resources for its economy, bolstered abusive governments, creating pressure for other powers to do the same or risk losing influence, it said.
The 16th annual world report by Human Rights Watch, published at http://hrw.org/wr2k6, said increased international pressure on Myanmar and North Korea were among several “bright spots” in 2005.
The group lauded India for freezing military aid to Nepal after a royal coup there in February and credited Kyrgyzstan for rescuing more than 400 refugees from a massacre in its Central Asian neighbor, Uzbekistan.