News and Information

US 'erodes' global human rights
January 13, 2005
Violations of human rights by the US are undermining international law and eroding its role on the world stage, a leading campaign group says.

Human Rights Watch says the US can no longer claim to defend human rights abroad if it practises abuses itself.

It urges the creation of an independent US commission to examine prisoner abuse at Iraq's US-run Abu Ghraib jail.

Washington is currently investigating alleged abuses at that facility and at its jail in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.


HRW says the US can no longer claim the moral high ground and lead by example.

A Guantanamo Bay inmate in his cell
Attacks on repressive regimes cannot justify attacks on the body of principles that makes their repression illegal
Human Rights Watch

Guantanamo 'torture letter'
Abu Ghraib inmates remember

It cites coercive interrogation techniques at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib jail as particularly damaging.

The group, the largest US-based rights organisation, says the actions of the US in such detention centres have undermined Washington's credibility as a proponent of human rights and a leader of the war against terror.

"Its embrace of coercive interrogation [is] part of a broader betrayal of human rights principles in the name of combating terrorism," HRW says.

The group calls for the Bush administration to set up a fully independent investigative commission, similar to the 9/11 Commission, to look into the Abu Ghraib allegations.

It also urges a special prosecutor to be appointed to determine what went wrong and to hold those responsible to account.

Last August, an independent commission came to the conclusion that the American soldiers who ran the Iraqi jail were mainly to blame.

Trials of a group of soldiers accused of being at the heart of the Baghdad prison scandal are under way at a military court in Texas.

Last week the US defence department announced a new investigation into allegations of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay.


However, according to the report, the impact of the abuse scandals has already seriously damaged the US's role as champion of human rights, reverberating worldwide.

When the US classified what was happening in Sudan's Darfur region as genocide it was immediately accused by the country's government of using Darfur as part of "a global American assault on Islam and Arabs", the report notes.

HRW criticises the US and other Western powers for handing the situation to the relatively inexperienced African Union.

"The situation cries out for the involvement by major military powers but they have chosen to be unavailable," the report says.

"Continued inaction risks undermining a fundamental rights principle: that the nations of the world will never let sovereignty stand in the way of their responsibility to protect people from mass atrocities," HRW concludes.


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