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Rights abuses feared

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U.S. National - AP

Rights Abuses Feared in Anti-Terror War
Tue Jan 14,10:15 AM ET Add U.S. National - AP to My Yahoo!

By HARRY DUNPHY, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Many countries resent or are reluctant to join the U.S. war on terrorism partly because of the government's tendency to ignore human rights in its conduct of the war, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.

In several key countries involved in the campaign against terrorism, such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the report said even rhetorical U.S. support for human rights has been rare. When the United States does try to promote human rights, its authority has been undermined by its refusal to be bound by the standards it preaches to others, said the annual survey.

"Washington's tendency to ignore human rights in fighting terrorism is not only disturbing in its own right," the report said. "It is dangerously counterproductive. The smoldering resentment it breeds risks generating terrorist recruits, puts off potential anti-terrorism allies and weakens efforts to curb terrorist atrocities."

For example, the United States is generating popular resentment in Pakistan by uncritically backing President Pervez Musharraf, who took power in a 1999 coup, Human Rights Watch said. In China, the Bush administration has played down the repression of Muslims in the Xinjiang province, which the Chinese government justifies as an anti-terrorism measure.

The 558-page Human Rights Watch World Report 2003 covers human rights in 58 countries in 2002. It identifies positive trends such as the formal end to wars in Angola and Sierra Leone and peace talks in Sri Lanka

But negative developments include the continued killings of civilians in wars from Colombia to Chechnya (news - web sites), from Congo to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The report by the human rights advocacy group said governments continued highly repressive policies in Myanmar, China, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Liberia and Vietnam.

"The United States is far from the world's worst human rights abuser," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of New York-based group. "But Washington has so much power that when it flouts human rights standards, it damages the human rights cause worldwide."

The report said that in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the United States clearly needed to take extra security measures.

"But the U.S. government must also pay attention to the pathology of terrorism, the set of beliefs that leads some people to join in attacking civilians," it said. "A strong human rights culture is an antidote to this pathology but in too many places Washington sees human rights mainly as an obstacle to its goals."

Human Rights Watch said the Bush administration seemed to recognize the connections between repression and terrorism in its National Security Strategy and had taken some steps to promote human rights in some countries directly involved in the struggle against terrorism, such as Egypt and Uzbekistan.

It said the 15-nation European Union (news - web sites) might have been expected to fill this leadership void, but because of its preoccupation with achieving consensus and other concerns, the EU frequently was paralyzed. European leaders virtually abandoned efforts to pressure Russia, an anti-terror ally, to end its abusive conduct of the war in Chechnya, the survey said.

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