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US abuse undermines global rights drive

WASHINGTON – The Bush administration’s attempts to defend inhumane interrogation methods and seek exemptions from planned anti-torture legislation compromised campaigns for human rights around the world in 2005, Human Rights Watch said.

The U.S.-based group said in a report on rights conditions in 70 countries that abuses committed by the United States in its war against terrorism had damaged American credibility and had prompted other countries to adopt similar tactics.

The report, which was dismissed by the White House as politically motivated, said Washington should appoint a special prosecutor and Congress should set up an independent panel to investigate U.S. abuses.

“The hypocrisy factor has encouraged copycat techniques around the world by people who do like the United States does and has also weakened the United States as one of the traditional important supporters of human rights,” Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, told a news conference in Washington.

President George W. Bush’s administration has come under heavy criticism from rights groups at home and abroad, and from many foreign governments, over its treatment of suspects caught since the September 11, 2001 attacks and in the war in Iraq.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters he had seen only media accounts of the 532-page report, but said it “appears to be based more on a political agenda than facts.”

“The United States does more than any country in the world to advance freedom and promote human rights,” he said, citing the ousting of repressive regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The focus should be more on those who are violating human rights and denying people their human rights,” McClellan said.


Bush was last month forced under congressional pressure to sign legislation outlawing torture by U.S. security forces but has resisted attempts to give terrorism suspects in American custody access to U.S. courts.

Roth said U.S. policies undercut efforts by Washington to deal with 2005 troubles such as the massacre of hundreds of demonstrators in Uzbekistan, ethnic cleansing in Darfur, Sudan and severe repression in countries such as Myanmar, North Korea, Turkmenistan, China and Zimbabwe.

“Even when the administration spoke out in defense of human rights or acted commendably, its initiatives made less headway as a result of the credibility gap,” the report said.