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Report 2005: Foreword By Irene Khan, Secretary General

Page 2 of 5

International Law

be achieved without a firm commitment to equal respect for all human rights economic, social and cultural as well as civil and political.

The indifference, apathy and impunity that allow violence against millions of women to persist is shocking. In countries around the world women suffer many forms of violence including genital mutilation, rape, beatings by partners, and killings in the name of honour. Thanks to the efforts of women's groups, there are now International treaties and mechanisms, laws and policies designed to protect women, but they fall still far short of what is required. In addition, there is a real danger of a backlash against women's human rights from conservative and fundamentalist elements.

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Women's human nights are not the only casualty of the assault on fundamental values that is shaking the human rights world. Nowhere has this been more damaging than in the efforts by the US administration to weaken the absolute ban on torture.

In 1973 Al published its first report on torture. It found that: "torture thrives on secrecy and impunity. Torture rears its head when the legal barriers against it are barred. Torture feeds on discrimination and fear. Torture gains ground when official condemnation of it is less than absolute " The pictures of detainees in US custody in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, show that what was true 30 years ago remains true today.

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Despite the near-universal outrage generated by the photographs coming out of Abu Ghraib, and the evidence suggesting that such practices are being applied to other prisoners held by the USA in Afghanistan, Guantánamo and elsewhere, neither the US administration nor the US Congress has called for a full and independent investigation.

Instead, the US government has gone to great lengths to restrict the application of the Geneva Conventions and to "re-define“ torture. It has sought to justify the use of coercive interrogation techniques, the practice of holding "ghost detainees" (people in unacknowledged incommunicado detention) and the "rendering" or handing over of prisoners to third countries known to practise torture. The cetention facility at Guantanamo Bay has become the gulag of our times, entrenching the practice of arbitrary and indefinite detention in violation of international law. Trials by military comm ssions have made a mockery of justice and due process.

The USA, as the unrivalled pol tical, military and economic hyper-power, sets the tone for governmental behaviour worldwide. When the most powerful country in the world thumbs Its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a licence to others to commit abuse with impunity and audacity. From Israel to Uzbekistan, Egypt to Nepal, governments have openly defied human rights and international humanitarian law in the name of national security and counter-terrorism".

Sixty years ago, out of the ashes of the Second World War, a new world order came into being, putting respect for human rights alongside peace, secunty and development as the primary objectives of the UN. Today, the UN appears unable and unwilling to hold its member states to account.

Report 2005: Foreword By Irene Khan, Secretary General

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international community allows this fundamental pillar to be eroded, it cannot hope to salvage the rest.

Condemn unequivocally human rights abuses by those who have taken humanity to new depths of bestiality and brutality by blowing up commuter trains in Madrid, taking school children hostage in Besian, and beheading humanitarian workers in Iraq, but stand firm on the governments' responsibility to bring them to justice within the rule of law and the framework of human rights. Respect for human rights is the best antidote for "terrorism".

Close the impunity and accountability deficit in human rights. At the national level, a full and independent investigation of the use of torture and other human rights abuses by US officials will go a long way to restoring confidence that true justice has no double standards. At the international level, the International Crminal Court must be Supported to become an efficient deterrent for atrocious crimes and an effective lever to advance human rights.

Listen to the voices of the victims, and respond to their cry for justice. UN Security Council members should commit themselves not to use the veto in dealing with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes or other large-scale human rights abuses. They should promote an international treaty and other means to control the trade in small arms which kill half a million people every year.

Reform the UN's human rights machinery urgently and radically in order to improve its legitimacy, efficiency and effectiveness. In particular, strengthen the capacity of the UN and regional organizations to protect people at risk of human rights abuse.

Link the achievement of the quantitatively formulated Millennium Development Goals to the qualitative achievement of human rights, particularly economic and social nights, and equality for women. Bring corporate and financial actors into the framework of accountability for human rights.

Protect human rights activists who are increasingly threatened and labelled as subversives. The space for liberal thought is shrinking, and intolerance is on the rise. Be vigilant in protecting civil society, because the pursuit of freedom depends on it as much as on the rule of law, an independent judiciary, free media and elected governments.

will governments and the UN take up this agenda? Now more than ever human rights
activists must play their part, mobilizing public opinion to put pressure on governments
and international organizations. In very different ways in the course of 2004, popular
nobilization for the victims of the Madrid bombings and the Indian Ocean tsunami
nowed the power of ordinary people to promote hope over fear, action over inaction
nd solidarity over indifference. Amnesty International believes in the power of
rdinary people to bring about extraordinary change, and with our members and

Report 2005: Foreword By Irene Khan, Secretary General

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supporters we will continue in 2005 to campaign for justice and freedom for all. We remain the eternal hope-mongers.


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All governments have a duty to protect the safety of the public, to investigate crime, and to bring those responsible to justice. Amnesty International recognizes that governments must cooperate in their investigations and judicial proceedings where the threats or crimes In question cross national boundaries. But this must take place within the framework of national and international laws and standards, including standards for humane practices.


There is, however, mounting evidence of a wide-ranging US program to transfer detainees to countries outside the rule of law through "extraordinary renditions" that place Individuals in direct threat of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Amnesty International has documented 30 individual cases in a recent report, but estimates in the press suggest the total number of rendered persons may be as high as 150 or more.

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Renditions are a form of government cooperation that the US should not be party to. Renditions are immoral, illegal, impractical, and simply wrong. They violate fundamental human rights and international law and they obstruct the search for justice and quest for security. The arrest and detention of suspects should take place in courtrooms, not in clandestine fights: a Torture Express' operated by agents of the United States.

'War on Terror". Quarterly
June 2004
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It is essential that the United States adopt new safeguards and tighter protections against the transfer of detainees to countries known to engage in torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Diplomatic assurances are sorely insufficient - what country would admit in advance that it intends to break the law and torture its detainees? US officials have already acceded that they are unable to follow up to ensure against electric shock, severe beatings, prolonged sleep deprivation, and

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