The 500 page Human Rights Watch Annual Report 2006 is now available for download.
The report shifts its usual emphasis on countries well known for human rights abuses and this time around focuses on the USA and European countries, the former for its hypocritical defence of torture.
From the Intro:
“Today, the willingness of some to flout basic human rights standards in the name of combating terrorism has deeply compromised the effectiveness of that commitment. The problem is aggravated by a continuing tendency to subordinate human rights to various economic and political interests.
“…Key U.S. allies such as Britain and Canada compounded the leadership problem in 2005 by seeking to undermine certain critical international rights protections. Britain sought to justify sending terrorist suspects to countries that torture, and Canada worked aggressively to dilute key provisions of a new treaty on enforced disappearances. These governments, as well as other members of the European Union, also continued to subordinate human rights in their relations with others whom they deemed useful in fighting terrorism or pursuing other goals.
“…even when the [US]administration spoke out in defence of human rights or acted commendably, its initiatives made less headway as a result of the credibility gap. European and other powers, meanwhile, had their own credibility problems or did far too little to correct the balance. The result was a global leadership void when it came to defending human rights.
“…torture and inhumane treatment are forbidden unconditionally, whether in time of peace or war, whether at the local police station or in the face of a major security threat. Yet in 2005, evidence emerged showing that several of the world’s leading powers now consider torture, in various guises, a serious policy option.
“Any discussion of detainee abuse in 2005 must begin with the United States, not because it is the worst violator but because it is the most influential.
“…President Bush continued to offer deceptive reassurance that the United States does not ‘torture’ suspects, but that reassurance rang hollow.
“…Moreover, President Bush’s pronouncements on torture continued to studiously avoid mention of the parallel prohibition of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.“Needless to say, this embrace of abusive interrogation techniques—not as an indirect consequence of official policy but as a deliberate tool—has significantly weakened the U.S. government’s credibility as a defender of human rights.”
And as for British Complicity in torture:
“…Britain has adopted policies that would make it complicit in torture. In 2005, Prime Minister Tony Blair proposed sending terrorist suspects to governments that have a history of torturing such people—a policy that the United States had already adopted in a practice sometimes referred to as “extraordinary rendition…Following precedents set by the Bush administration, the Blair government proposed sending terrorist suspects to places such as Libya, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia—all governments with notorious records of torturing radical Islamists.”
500 pages later the Report focuses again on the USA:
“The United States incarcerates people at a greater rate than any other country, 724 per one hundred thousand residents. Seven million people—or one in every thirty-one persons—is in prison, or on probation or parole. Black men between the ages of twenty-five and twenty-nine are seven times more likely than their white counterparts to be in prison or jail. More than six hundred thousand people annually leave prison, most of them to return to distressed minority neighbourhoods, facing formidable barriers to successful re-entry, including laws that limit their access to education, housing, and jobs."
“As of November 4, forty-eight people had been executed in 2005. Evidence of the arbitrariness and procedural flaws in the imposition of the sentence continue to grow. Since 1973, 121 people have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence, including one in 2005.
“While U.S. child offenders no longer face the death penalty, they do face the possibility of life without parole sentences. There are at least 2,225 child offenders sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in prison in the United States, an estimated 59 percent of whom received the sentence for their first criminal conviction. The United States is one of fourteen countries in the world known to permit such sentences and research suggests that there may be no more than twelve child offenders outside the United States serving life sentences without possibility of release. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by every country in the world except the United States and Somalia, forbids sentencing child offenders to life without parole.”Well worth downloading!