LONDON – The U.S.-led war on terror has produced the most sustained attack on human rights and international law in 50 years, Amnesty International (search) said in its annual report Wednesday.
Irene Khan, secretary general of the human rights group, condemned terrorist assaults by groups such as Al Qaeda, saying they posed a threat to security around the world.
But she criticized the response of the U.S.-led "coalition of the willing," saying its powerful governments were ignoring international laws by sacrificing human rights in the "blind pursuit" of security.
"The global security agenda promoted by the U.S. administration is bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle," Khan said in a statement. "Violating rights at home, turning a blind eye to abuses abroad, and using pre-emptive military force where and when it chooses have damaged justice and freedom, and made the world a more dangerous place."
Amnesty said the U.S.-led war on terror continued to be waged using indiscriminate and disproportionate means.
The report cites the hundreds of foreign nationals who remain in indefinite detention without charge or trial in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay (search), Cuba. It also details alleged unlawful killings of civilians by coalition troops in Iraq and allegations of abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers.
The recent publication of photographs of U.S. troops torturing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison (search) in Baghdad was met with international condemnation.
"By failing to protect the rights of those who may be guilty, governments endanger the rights of those who are innocent and put us all at risk," Khan said.
The report criticized several governments, including those of Spain, France and Uzbekistan, which it said have introduced "regressive" anti-terrorist legislation and restrictions on freedom since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Britain was singled out for holding 14 foreign nationals under anti-terrorism laws that allow indefinite detention without charge of trial. The laws have been criticized by lawmakers, civil rights groups and Muslim associations.
British police disclosed last month that more than half the 572 people arrested in anti-terror raids in Britain since Sept. 11, 2001 have been released without charge, and fewer than one in five have been charged with terrorism-related offenses.
Amnesty also criticized several European nations — including Portugal, Spain, France, Britain, Ireland and Malta — for tough new policies on asylum seekers.
Khan said she was heartened by millions of people who took to the streets in capitals around the world to protest the war in Iraq, Spaniards who marched following the March 11 terrorist attacks in Madrid, and the World Social Forum (search) in Brazil.
"Governments need to listen," she said. "In times of uncertainty, the world needs not only to fight against global threats but to fight for global justice."
The report also said that Iraq and the war on terror have obscured the greatest human rights challenge in recent history — the tendency of many developing countries to spend billions of dollars a year on weapons instead of tackling poverty.
Khan said there is a risk that U.N. Millennium Development Goals such as reducing child mortality and halving the number of people without access to clean water, will not be achieved because resources have been diverted to the war on terror.
Khan reiterated calls for support of Amnesty International's 2004-2006 plan, adopted at the group's international council meeting in Mexico in August 2003.
It urges governments to resist committing abuses of human rights under the guise of the war on terror, to improve the rights of women, to reform and strengthen the justice system and to abolish the death penalty.