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Group Says Bending on Rights Risky

January 15, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The U.S. government's willingness to compromise on human rights to fight terrorism sets a dangerous precedent and drives some nations away from joining that war, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.

In its annual global survey of human rights, the private group said the U.S. "tendency to ignore human rights in fighting terrorism is not only disturbing in its own right."

"It is dangerously counterproductive," the New York-based group said in the report, citing the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, among others. "The smoldering resentment it breeds risks generating terrorist recruits, puts off potential anti-terrorism allies and weakens efforts to curb terrorist atrocities."

In several key countries, such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the report said, even rhetorical U.S. support for human rights is rare.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, when asked about the report, said the U.S. has worked to promote democracy and freedom around the world, and "in fact it's been an integral part of helping strengthen societies in the fight against terrorism."

Boucher said the United States was treating detainees at Guantanamo in line with the Geneva Convention.

The report covers human rights in 58 countries. It identifies positive trends such as the formal end to wars in Angola and Sierra Leone, peace talks in Sri Lanka and independence for East Timor.

"The United States is far from the world's worst human rights abuser," said Kenneth Roth, the group's executive director. "But Washington has so much power that when it flouts human rights standards, it damages the human rights cause worldwide."

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