Infringing Human Rights, UNHCR says


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Posted by Tony from ? (167.88.192.30) on Wednesday, December 18, 2002 at 12:18PM :

Published on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 by Reuters
'War on Terror' Infringing Human
Rights, UNHCR Says

HELSINKI - The U.N.'s human rights chief said Tuesday that the U.S.-led "war
on terror" was hurting human rights and exacerbating prejudices around the
world.

"The war on terrorism has had some damaging effects, I would suggest, on
human rights standards across the world," United Nations High
Commissioner for Human rights Sergio Vieira de Mello told a news
conference in Helsinki.

Governments across the globe have
invoked the "war on terror," announced
by President Bush after Sept. 11, 2001,
attacks in the United States, to justify
activities that de Mello said are
damaging human rights in the
industrialized and developing worlds.

De Mello said he understood the need to
provide security against attacks on
civilians after the September 11 attacks
which killed more than 3,000 people. But
he said that the "war on terror" had
aggravated existing prejudices.

On Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers seized four
airliners, smashed two into the World
Trade Center in New York and another
into the Pentagon near Washington. The
fourth crashed in a rural Pennsylvania
field.

The U.N. human rights chief echoed the
worries expressed by his predecessor
Mary Robinson last month about the rise
in discrimination against Muslims.

"Arabs and Muslims at large are experiencing increasing incidents of racial
discrimination ... Singling out, finger pointing and ... even in some instances
(violence)," he said.

The United States blamed the September 11 attacks on Saudi born Islamic
militant Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network. Several of the
suspected hijackers were Saudis.

De Mello also said anti-Semitism was an issue that needed to be met head
on.

He declined to predict if he believed there would be a war on Iraq, but said
that the United Nations had learned its lesson from past conflicts and would
be ready to act if a humanitarian crisis developed.

"We must at any cost prevent civilians from becoming what some
irresponsible people call 'collateral damage'," he said. "In Iraq...civilians have
suffered enough."

De Mello, speaking earlier at conference on racism and xenophobia, also
said he would unveil a plan in 2003 for improving relations between the
Muslim and non-Muslim world, warning that differences would lead to
disaster. "I intend to take an initiative in 2003 to improve understanding
between the Muslim world and ourselves and open a new era," de Mello said.
"If we continue on this (current) path, we will end up in disaster."

He did not comment further on the initiative, saying he was still consulting with
governments.

Copyright İ 2002 Reuters Ltd

-- Tony
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