LONDON – Amnesty International said Tuesday that the relentless pursuit of security by powerful nations had undermined human rights, draining energy and attention from crises afflicting the poor and underprivileged.
In releasing its 2006 annual report, the human rights watchdog condemned countries such as the United States, China and Russia for focusing on narrowly defined interests, diluting efforts to solve conflicts elsewhere — such as Sudan's Darfur region.
"There is no doubt that it (the war on terror) has given a new lease on life to old-fashioned repression," Irene Khan, Amnesty International's secretary general, told a news conference.
The human rights watchdog called on the United Nations to address abuses in Darfur, where violence has killed more than 180,000 people and displaced 2.5 million since 2003. Many of the atrocities are blamed on the so-called Janjaweed, a disparate group of Arab militiamen allegedly backed by the Sudanese government.
"(The United States) has basically mortgaged its moral authority on the streets of Fallujah and Baghdad — and lost moral authority to speak on this issue," Khan told AP Television News in regard to Darfur.
Amnesty also called for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, and for full disclosure on prisoners implicated elsewhere in the "war on terror." It also asked for the U.N. Human Rights Council to insist on equal standards "whether in Darfur, Guantanamo, Chechnya or China."
"Guantanamo prison camp is an aberration under international law," Khan told AP. "It places people outside the rule of law. And it sends a message to other regimes around the world — like Egypt or China — that they too can ignore human rights. They too can lock people up in the name of national security."
Amnesty appealed for a change of strategy in Iraq, which it described as having sunk into "a vortex of sectarian violence."
"When the powerful are too arrogant to review and reassess their strategies, the heaviest price is paid by the poor and powerless — in this case ordinary Iraqi women, men and children," Khan said in a statement.
Amnesty has criticized U.S. President George W. Bush 's approach to tackling international terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks, complaining that hard-won human rights and civil liberties are being sacrificed in the name of stepped-up security.
Along with cases of abuse of prisoners in U.S. detention, the assault on rights makes it harder for Western countries to press other governments to clean up their rights record, Amnesty said. Countries such as Colombia and Uzbekistan used counterterrorism to justify the repression of opponents, it said.
The increasing brutality of terrorist and militant attacks is a "bitter reminder that the 'war on terror' is failing and will continue to fail until human rights and human security are given precedence over narrow national security interests," Khan said.