Amnesty International, others criticize U.S. human rights report

Posted 3:21 p.m. March 11

by Shaphan Marwah
U-WIRE (DC BUREAU)

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – China and Russia lead the world in human rights violations, according to the State Department’s Human Rights Report for 2001. The annual report was released last week, amid allegations of bias and favoritism toward U.S. allies.

“The worldwide promotion of human rights is in keeping with America’s most deeply held values,” said Secretary of State Colin Powell in a recent press conference. “We have done our utmost to ensure the accuracy, objectivity and integrity of the reports.”

The report stressed the importance of human rights “to defend our security after the tragic events of Sept. 11,” Powell said.

According to the report, Afghanistan and Peru showed marked improvements in human rights, democracy and labor, while China, Russia, Belarus and Zimbabwe were highlighted for declining standards.

The Chinese government received poor ratings for measures against Muslim Uighur activists under the anti-terrorism umbrella and also for declining religious freedom in the country.

“They have chosen to label all of those who advocate greater freedom in that area as terrorists,” Assistant Secretary of State Lorne Craner said at a press conference. “We don’t subscribe to their notion in that area.”

“There should be no double standards in the fight against terrorists,” Chinese embassy spokesperson Weiee Sun said. “The separatists in Xinjiang have attacked schools, buses and restraints and received training in Afghanistan from al Qaeda.”

The report was also attacked by the Russian government as “an irritant in the Russian-American dialogue” in a recent press release responding to criticism of their treatment of Chechen separatists.

The report is organized into individual breakdowns of each country, beginning with a description of that nation’s political background and an overview of changes in its human rights record. The country overview is followed by detailed record of abuses, in categories ranging from “freedom from torture” to “freedom of speech.”

Alistair Hodgett, spokesperson for Amnesty International, a global human rights’ organization, welcomed the report as “a crucial tool for holding foreign governments accountable on their human rights records” but also expressed concern over “toning down of criticism on key U.S. allies.”

“In the Saudi Arabian section for example, there is no reference to the treatment of homosexuals,” Hodgett said. “It’s a glaring omission in the report.”

Criticism was also focused on the use of the words “terrorists” and “fighters” to describe separatist movements.

“The language is a marked departure from previous years,” Hodgett said. “The report talks about human rights violations in Israel as ‘a response to terrorist threat.'”

Powell defended the report as a “key source of information for policymakers, the press and the public and a force for freedom.”

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