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Annual Report 2004: War on Global Values - Human Rights Under Attack by Armed Groups and Governments

Launching the Amnesty International Annual Report 2004, the organisation said that violence by armed groups and increasing violations by governments have combined to produce the most sustained attack on human rights and international humanitarian law in 50 years. This is leading to a world of growing mistrust, fear and division.

Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan said:

'Callous, cruel and criminal attacks by armed groups such as al-Qa’ida, pose a very real threat to the security of people everywhere. We condemn them in the strongest possible terms as serious crimes under international and domestic law, sometimes amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity,'

Amnesty International strongly condemned armed groups responsible for atrocities such as the March 11 bombing in Madrid and the bomb attack on the United Nations building in Iraq on 19 August 2003, which killed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello.

The human rights organisation said that violent attacks on civilians and on institutions established to provide solutions to conflict and insecurity, such as the United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross, represented a significant new threat to international justice.

“But it is also frightening that the principles of international law and the tools of multilateral action which could protect us from these attacks are being undermined, marginalised or destroyed by powerful governments,” continued Irene Khan.

“Governments are losing their moral compass, sacrificing the global values of human rights in a blind pursuit of security. This failure of leadership is a dangerous concession to armed groups.

“The global security agenda promoted by the US Administration is bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle. Violating rights at home, turning a blind eye to abuses abroad and using pre-emptive military force where and when it chooses has damaged justice and freedom, and made the world a more dangerous place.”

Reports of torture and ill-treatment underline the vulnerability of hundreds of prisoners, not only in Iraq but also at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, Afghanistan and elsewhere, incarcerated by the United States and its allies without charge, trial, access to lawyers or protection of the Geneva Conventions.

“By failing to protect the rights of those who may be guilty, governments endanger the rights of those who are innocent, and put us all at risk.”

Amnesty International’s Annual Report 2004 documents festering conflicts in places like Chechnya, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, and Nepal which have become a breeding ground for some of the worst atrocities. Violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories has deepened, while elsewhere many governments are openly pursuing repressive agendas.

“While governments have been obsessed with Iraq, they have allowed the real weapons of mass destruction - injustice and impunity, poverty, discrimination and racism, the uncontrolled trade in small arms, violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and abuse of Children's rights - to go unaddressed,” said Irene Khan.

While underlining abuse and impunity, hypocrisy and double standards of governments, Amnesty International highlighted the emerging power of civil society to turn the tide in favour of human rights.

Globally, despite the efforts by the United States to undermine international justice and ensure global immunity for its citizens, the International Criminal Court appointed its prosecutor and began its work in earnest. Slowly the courts in the United States and the United Kingdom have begun to scrutinise the executive power to restrict human rights.

“Human rights matter because they offer a powerful and compelling vision of a better and fairer world, and a concrete plan of how to get there. These global values of justice are the most effective route to security and peace,” concluded Irene Khan.


The 339-page report documents human rights issues of concern to Amnesty International during 2003 in 155 countries. It reports that:

  • Extrajudicial executions were carried out in 47 countries;
  • People were 'disappeared' by state agents in 28 countries;
  • Victims of torture and ill-treatment by security forces, police and other state authorities were reported in 132 countries;
  • Prisoners of conscience were held in 44 countries;
  • People were arbitrarily arrested and detained without charge or trial in 58 countries;
  • People were sentenced to death in 63 countries;
  • People were executed in 28 countries;
  • Armed opposition groups committed serious human rights violations, such as deliberate and arbitrary killings of civilians, torture and abductions or hostage taking in 35 countries;
  • Armed groups have committed violent acts and killings in 34 countries;
  • Armed groups have committed torture and ill-treatment in 18 countries;
  • Armed groups have committed hostage takings and abductions in 16 countries.

Read the Report ...

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