US terror laws 'damage human rights'

The United States' "war on terror" has been "extremely damaging" for human rights, and has been used as an excuse by totalitarian regimes to impose oppressive laws, a leading think tank said yesterday.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), traditionally viewed as an establishment body, concluded in a report that issues such as Guantanamo Bay mean that Washington can no longer "assume a high moral position".

Countries such as Pakistan and Uzbekistan have brought in so-called anti-terrorist laws insisting that they are not much different to the Patriot Act enacted by the Bush administration, said the report's author, Professor Rosemary Foot.

The IISS compiled a dossier Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction before the war. It said Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and would use them if attacked. Tony Blair's dossier, which followed two weeks later in September 2002, drew heavily on the IISS document.

Last month the IISS said it had commissioned a new study to reassess its findings. Yesterday's report, ''Human Rights and Counter-terrorism in America's Asia Policy", examined the effect of US support for human rights in five countries seen as being in the front line against Islamic terrorism - Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and China.

The report pointed out that following the attacks of 11 September 2001, the US National Security Adviser, Condoleeza Rice, said: "Civil liberties matter to this President very much, and our values matter to us abroad. We are not going to stop talking about things that matter to us: human rights, religious freedom ... We're going to continue to press these things; we would not be America if we did not."

The report concluded: "US national security officials have also been reported as using techniques outlawed under the 1984 Convention Against Torture ... which the US signed in 1994, in their interrogation of al- Qa'ida suspects. US authorities have returned or sent a number of prisoners for further interrogation to countries where there are strong grounds to suspect they will be tortured."

"It is ... important to note that the credibility of America's externally directed human rights message has been damaged by US curtailment of the rights of its own citizens and non-citizens."

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