28 mei 2008

A Dismal Record

Amnesty International Report 2008:
As the world’s most powerful state, the USA sets the standard for government behaviour globally. With breathtaking legal obfuscation, the US administration has continued its efforts to weaken the absolute prohibition against torture and other ill-treatment. Senior officials refused to denounce the notorious practice of “water-boarding”. The US President authorized the CIA to continue secret detention and interrogation, although they amount to the international crime of enforced disappearance. Hundreds of prisoners in Guantánamo and Bagram, and thousands in Iraq, continued to be detained without charge or trial, many for more than six years. The US government has failed to ensure full accountability for abuses by its forces in Iraq. An Order issued by the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) in June 2004 granting immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts to foreign private military and security firms operating in Iraq, presents further obstacles to accountability. There was wide concern about the killings of at least 17 Iraqi civilians by guards employed by the private security company, Blackwater, in September 2007. These actions have done nothing to further the fight against terrorism and a great deal to damage the USA’s prestige and influence abroad.
The world needs a USA genuinely engaged and committed to the cause of human rights, at home and abroad. In November 2008, the US people will elect a new President. For the USA to have moral authority as a human rights champion, the next administration must close Guantánamo and either try the detainees in ordinary federal courts or release them. It must repeal the Military Commissions Act and ensure respect for international humanitarian law and human rights in all military and security operations. It must ban evidence obtained through coercion and denounce all forms of torture and other ill-treatment no matter to what end. The new administration must establish a viable strategy for international peace and security.
It must ditch support for authoritarian leaders and invest instead in the institutions of democracy, rule of law and human rights that will provide long-term stability. And it must be ready to end US isolation in the international human rights system and engage constructively with the UN Human Rights Council.

If the US administration has distinguished itself in recent years through its defiance of international law, European governments have shown a proclivity for double standards. The European Union (EU) professes to be “a union of values, united by respect for the rule of law, shaped by common standards and consensus, committed to tolerance, democracy, and human rights”. Yet, in 2007 fresh evidence came to light that a number of EU member states had looked the other way or colluded with the CIA to abduct, secretly detain and illegally transfer prisoners to countries where
they were tortured and otherwise ill-treated. Despite repeated calls by the Council of Europe, no government has fully investigated the wrongdoings, come clean and/or put in place adequate measures to prevent future use of European territory for rendition and secret detention.
On the contrary, some European governments sought to water down the 1996 ruling from the European Court of Human Rights prohibiting the return of suspects to countries where they could face torture. The Court pronounced itself in one of two cases pending before it in 2007, reaffirming the absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment.
While many grumble about the regulatory excesses of the EU, there is little outrage at the lack of EU regulation of human rights at home. The truth of the matter is that the EU is unable to hold its member states accountable on human rights matters which fall outside EU law. The Fundamental Rights Agency, created in 2007, has been given such a limited mandate that it cannot demand any real accountability. While the EU sets a high bar on human rights for candidate countries seeking accession (and rightly so), once they are allowed in, they are able to breach the standards with little or no accountability to the EU.
Can the EU or its member states call for respect for human rights by China or by Russia when they themselves are complicit in torture? Can the EU ask other – much poorer – countries to keep their borders open, when its own member states are restricting the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers? Can it preach tolerance abroad when it has failed to tackle discrimination against Roma, Muslim and other minorities living within its borders?
As for the USA, so too for the EU, the year ahead will bring important political transitions. The Lisbon treaty signed by EU governments in December 2007 demands new institutional commitments to be forged among the member states. In some key member states elections and other developments have brought about or will lead to new political leadership. They provide opportunities for action on human rights within the EU and globally.

If the link does not work: paste: http://thereport.amnesty.org/eng/download-report