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December 1, 2001
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US war puts rights groups on sticky wicket

Dharam Shourie in New York

The United States' crackdown on terrorism and consequent 'tough' laws to combat the menace has thrown human rights groups and organisations in a dilemma, and posed a question mark on their commitment to the real cause.

These groups, which would have been in the forefront in criticising such laws had they been enacted by any other country, are treading a much more cautious line in case of the US, for apparently they do not want to be even remotely seen supporting terrorists.

Even the Bush administration's decision to set up military courts to try foreign terrorists, whose proceedings might not be made public for years, and detention of hundreds of people on suspicion has not brought the type of reaction expected of these groups, if similar laws were to be implemented by any other country.

Though some organisations are considering mounting a legal challenge to the laws, even that would be more in the context of civil liberties than human rights.

Samantha Power, Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard said in a recent interview that she had little long-term concern that Americans would accept any substantial slippage of civil rights at home.

What worried her was the United States would 'export human rights violations' through its statements and actions.

The groups fear the American example could be quoted by other countries that are fighting terrorism to implement similar laws, and the rights organisations themselves could come under criticism for following double standards if they criticise.

"One thing to underline is that there has been too much emphasis on killing on the part of some officials, including US Secretary of Defence H Rumsfeld. We would like to see an equal emphasis on the importance of respecting rights of prisoners," Director of research at Amnesty International in London, Claudio Cordone, was quoted as saying.

But the entire situation has thrown a question mark on the role of many international institutions including the Amnesty.

The Northern Alliance had invited Amnesty to investigate the bloody uprising at Qala Jangi fort in Afghanistan, which was crushed by use of overwhelming force.

But the group, according to the Times, said the responsibility for an inquiry fell on those who had custody of prisoners -- United States, Britain and Northern Alliance.

Further there were reports of killing of dozens of Pakistani soldiers with Taleban fighters in a school in Mazar-I-Sharif, summary executions of surrendered Taleban fighters in Kunduz and boast by a Pushtoon commander that he had executed 160 Taleban soldiers at Takhta Pul.

America's War on Terror: The Complete Coverage
The Attack on US Cities: The Complete Coverage

The Terrorism Weblog: Latest Stories from Around the World

External Link:
For further coverage, please visit www.saja.org/roundupsept11.html

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