Amnesty Report Damns Global Powers | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 25.05.2005
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Amnesty Report Damns Global Powers

Amnesty International's 2005 Report, published Wednesday, condemns 149 countries including Germany and the United States for differing policies that it claims constitute abuses of human rights.


US practices at Guantanamo Bay are condemned in the report

Amnesty International's annual report into the state of human rights across the globe could not have come at a worst time for the embattled German government.

After the hugely damaging loss in the North Rhine-Westphalia state election and the subsequent call for early federal elections by the end of the year, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder will not be happy to hear that certain policies of his government have put Germany in the firing line of the human rights organization.

In Amnesty's 2005 report, Germany comes under fire for its increasingly harsh asylum policy which has seen a number of federal states deport thousands of refugees back to Afghanistan, Togo and most recently Kosovo.

Roma in Serbien

The Roma, a threatened minority in Kosovo, have been deported in large numbers from Germany

"We continue to criticize policies which see people deported to countries where there is a threat to their human rights. We're outraged by this practice," said Barbara Lochbihler, secretary general for Amnesty International in Germany. "We find it scandalous that these federal states attempt to deport people, like the threatened minorities of Roma and Sinti, back to Kosovo."

While Germany faces the ire of Amnesty, it is by no means the worst offender in a report that reads like a rogues gallery of human rights abusers. One country that has a higher profile in the 2005 report than it did the previous year is the United States.

US abuse record lengthens

In terms of the torture of prisoners, the US seems to be at the center of international outrage and the Amnesty report's increased documentation of practices employed by the superpower in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay and the organization's growing concern indicates that this anger is correctly directed.

Neue Folterfotos aus Abu Graib, Irak

A US soldier holds a dog in front an Iraqi detainee at Abu Ghraib prison on the outskirts of Baghdad.

"We have seen in the last year that the actions of the US government have not only been called into question concerning the torture at Abu Ghraib but also on an international level," Lochbihler said. "The US has not complied with international law and this of course weakens the laws and the United Nations and shows other countries that human rights abuses against certain people can be carried out and justified under anti-terror laws."

Torture under anti-terror laws condemned

Lochbihler said that such justification is softening the debate on human rights abuses. The fear is that when torture is applied under increasingly stringent anti-terror laws, it becomes an evil to be accepted and solitary confinement for an unlimited period of time without indictment and without legal advice is carried out almost without resistance.

But while the United States features as the highest profile nation to be pilloried by the 2005 report, it is just one of 149 countries which are documented as being abusers of human rights with some adding to their number of appearances in Amnesty's damning reports.

Todesstrafe in China

China detains and kills thousands every year under strict state security laws

"China is world champion when it comes to the death penalty," Lochbihler said. "Amnesty has documented some 3,400 executions in China alone. The actual number of state sanctioned homicides is even higher.

"In addition, the Chinese authorities are very repressive concerning the media and Internet users, and defenders of human rights and advocates of reform are condemned. These are developments we at Amnesty criticize strongly."

Human rights campaigners targeted in Guatemala

Many people are killed or executed in countries around the world without the public's knowledge. This year, Amnesty International has uncovered a previously unrecorded but brutal regime in Guatemala in Central America.

"Nine years after the end of the bloody civil war, there are increasing incidents of human rights abuses in Guatemala," Lochbihler said. "Those who defend human rights and who wish to investigate war crimes are being killed by criminal groups and it is very important that we bring this to the attention of the international community."

Flüchtlinge in Darfur

Refugees at the Abu Shouk camp near El Fasher in Darfur.

The most damning indictment in the report is reserved for the catastrophe in Darfur in western Sudan. Amnesty condemns the Sudanese government for its armed and financial support for the Janjaweed militia which is responsible for the killing and rape of tens of thousands and the displacement of millions of refugees. Amnesty calls the disaster "the worst human rights crisis of modern times."

Sudanese government, UN accused in Darfur crisis

"Thousands of women were raped, sometimes in public, and many were taken as sexual slaves by soldiers or Janjaweed militiamen," Amnesty said of conflict in the western region of Darfur in the report.

The United Nations also comes under fire with Amnesty accusing the world body of a "striking failure" to prevent the genocide. Despite resolutions passed in the general assembly, the violence continued and the UN Security Council failed to secure a mandate for the deployment of international peacekeeping forces.

While the 2005 report appears to be discouraging, Amnesty strives for careful optimism. The efforts of reform at the UN could contribute positively to the fight against abuses, it concludes, and that the replacement of the UN human rights commission by an UN council of human rights could also be a change for the better.

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