Amnesty Under Attack

In what appears to be a concerted effort to discredit independent human rights advocates, the Bush administration and its allies in the media have been engaging in a series of attacks against Amnesty International, the world's largest human rights organization and winner of the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize.

Amnesty International has received support from literally millions of individuals around the world because of its steadfast defense of civil and political rights against repressive governments regardless of a given regime's ideology, economic system, or strategic alliances. Avoiding politics, Amnesty provides regular reports of the human rights situation in every country in the world based upon certain objective criteria, and focuses its advocacy work on letter-writing campaigns to free individual prisoners.

Such consistent and credible reporting and advocacy to advance the cause of human rights does not sit well with the U.S. government, however, long the world's number one military and financial backer of autocratic regimes and whose armed forces in recent years have engaged in widespread torture, extrajudicial killings, and other violations of international humanitarian law.

Following publication of a report on May 26 criticizing the abuse of prisoners by the U.S. military in detention facilities in Iraq and elsewhere, Vice President Dick Cheney blithely dismissed Amnesty International's well-documented findings, saying "I frankly just don't take them seriously." White House spokesman Scott McClellan claimed that the detailed accounting of U.S. human rights violations was "ridiculous and unsupported by the facts," while Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared that Amnesty's report was "absurd."

President George W. Bush, in a press conference May 31, similarly referred to it as "an absurd report" and implied that the 44-year-old human rights organization was being used by terrorists and those "who hate America."

Ironically, at the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, top Bush administration officials were regularly citing Amnesty International's human rights reports as evidence of the perfidy of Saddam Hussein's regime. For example, in reference to the Iraqi government, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumseld asserted that "We know that it's a repressive regime" as a result of reports by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations "about how the regime of Saddam Hussein treats his people." Rumsfeld added that a "careful reading" of Amnesty International's reports document "the viciousness of that regime."

It is one thing to criticize human rights abuses by foreign governments the Bush administration seeks to overthrow and it is quite another thing to criticize human rights abuses by the United States itself.

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