Disturbing detentions

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 March, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 March, 2002, 12:00am

Amnesty International's report on the United States' secretive detention of more than 1,200 foreigners since the September 11 terrorist attacks in apparent violation of international standards is disturbing.

Most of the detainees, of Middle Eastern or South Asian origin, were stopped while going through immigration. While some were found to have committed minor crimes and charged, none has been accused of terrorism-related offences.

Normally, the detained should have been released within 48 hours if they were not charged, but laws passed in the wake of the terrorist attacks have allowed the authorities to hold them without charges for longer periods under 'emergency conditions'. More than six months after the attacks, many remain in custody and have not had access to lawyers.

That the United States has failed to observe internationally accepted rules of detention makes a mockery of its avowed goal of making the promotion of human rights a central tenet of its foreign policy.

Every year, the State Department publishes reports in which it passes judgment on the human rights conditions of every country in the world.

As these reports often draw heavily on the findings of Amnesty International, the US Government should take heed of the human rights organisation's criticisms and adopt appropriate measures to address the alleged abuses. Otherwise, it would lose its moral authority over atrocious regimes with no respect for human rights.

Any attempt by any government to ditch basic rules protecting personal freedoms for the sake of national security should be treated with the greatest scepticism.




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