UK/USA/Iraq: Blair in Washington - PM should call on Bush to respect rights in Iraq as 'way out of quagmire'

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“The danger is that coalition forces risk feeding extremism with every hastily discharged weapon and every arbitrary detention. So many civilians have already been killed in Falluja and other parts of Iraq.

“Tony Blair should tell George Bush that security in Iraq must mean absolute respect for human rights. Even-handedness is the only way out of the quagmire.

“This must mean that an Iraqi death or injury is treated with as much seriousness as an American or British one; an apparent ‘disappearance’ of an Iraqi citizen investigated with all the urgency as would a hostage-taking involving Italian, Chinese or Japanese nationals. Detention must come with judicial safeguards.”

Amnesty International, which earlier this week strongly criticised the taking of hostages in Iraq as a violation of international humanitarian law, is concerned at the potential use of disproportionate force and mass round-ups without judicial safeguards by US and other coalition forces.

US forces are estimated to be holding some 10,000 detainees, many outside legal channels. Amnesty International, which visited the country earlier this year, has spoken to numerous Iraqi families, hearing credible accounts of inhumane prison conditions, ill treatment by coalition forces and of desperate families left for weeks or months without news of their imprisoned relatives.

Kate Allen added:

“With the deadly threat from al-Qa’ida and other armed groups, the temptation for governments is always to move the line on human rights. This is a disastrous mistake. It leads to catastrophically bad decisions like that taken to set up Guantanamo Bay.

“Tony Blair should counsel George Bush against any overreaction in Iraq. Human rights need to be safeguarded in the cauldron of Iraq, just as much as they need to be restored to detainees in places like Guantanamo Bay.

“Mr Blair’s message should focus on the value of consistent policy on human rights as they key to Iraq, the wider Middle East and the ‘war on terror.’”

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