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Amnesty says security emphasis hurting human rights

LONDON -- Amnesty International said in a report released today that the relentless pursuit of security by the world's powerful nations had undermined human rights, draining energy and attention from crises afflicting the poor and underprivileged.

In its 2006 annual report, the human rights watchdog condemned countries such as the United States, China and Russia for focusing on narrowly defined interests, diluting efforts to solve conflicts elsewhere -- such as Sudan's Darfur region.

``Governments collectively and individually paralyzed international institutions and squandered public resources in pursuit of narrow security interests, sacrificed principles in the name of the `war on terror' and turned a blind eye to massive human rights abuses," Amnesty's Secretary General Irene Khan said in a statement accompanying the report.

It urged the United Nations to address abuses in Darfur, where violence has killed more than 180,000 people and displaced 2.5 million since 2003. Many of the atrocities are blamed on the so-called Janjaweed, a disparate group of Arab militiamen allegedly backed by the Sudanese government.

``Intermittent attention and feeble action by the United Nations and the African Union fell pathetically short of what was needed in Darfur," Khan said.

Amnesty also urged Washington to close the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and for full disclosure on prisoners implicated elsewhere in the ``war on terror." It also asked for the UN Human Rights Council to insist on equal standards ``whether in Darfur, Guantanamo, Chechnya or China."

It appealed for a change of strategy in Iraq, which it described as having sunk into ``a vortex of sectarian violence."

``When the powerful are too arrogant to review and reassess their strategies, the heaviest price is paid by the poor and powerless -- in this case ordinary Iraqi women, men and children," Khan said.

Amnesty has criticized President Bush's approach to tackling international terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, complaining that hard-won human rights and civil liberties are being sacrificed in the name of stepped-up security.

Along with cases of abuse of prisoners in US detention, the assault on rights makes it harder for Western countries to press other governments to clean up their rights record, Amnesty said.

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