Socialist Worker

Straw's cynical manipulation of rights abuses

Issue No. 1829

NEW LABOUR is highly selective about the countries it chooses to condemn over human rights abuses. The government's dossier graphically describes torture methods under Saddam Hussein. Yet it does not detail the torture and repression that is carried out by regimes that are allies of the US and Britain.

The dossier refers to 'grave violations of human rights' which are 'not the work of a number of overzealous individuals but the deliberate policy of the regime'. It goes on: 'People are in constant fear of being denounced as opponents of the regime. 'The security services can strike at any time. Arbitrary arrests and killings are commonplace.'

That is a fitting description of Qatar, the Gulf state favoured by the US to launch its war on Iraq. Human rights group Amnesty International reports that the regime carries out arbitrary arrest and torture of detainees. The Emir, the country's ruler, seized power from his father in a coup. There are no elections.

Private, social, sports, trade, professional and cultural societies are all forced to register with the government. Security forces then watch over the activities of all these groups. The US State Department's own report in 2000 on Qatar pointed out the 'severe restrictions on freedom of assembly and association'. There is no right for ordinary people to protest or change the government.

In Saudi Arabia, a longtime ally of the US, the torture methods used include people being flogged for the 'crime' of being gay. 'Systematic torture and ill treatment in Saudi Arabia's prisons and police stations continue to be reported,' said Amnesty International in its report this year.

Those convicted of robbery have their hands or feet cut off. In 2001 some 79 people were executed after what Amnesty said were not free and fair trials.

The country imprisoned 33,000 Iraqis in a prison camp after the 1991 Gulf War. Some 5,200 still remain there. New Labour has not produced a dossier on human rights abuses in Colombia. In 2001 more than 5,000 people were killed for political motives, some 300 people 'disappeared', and 200,000 were forcibly displaced, according to Amnesty International.

Colombia is the third biggest recipient of US aid in the world. Some 82 percent of that aid goes to the military and police under the cover of Plan Colombia.

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Sat 7 Dec 2002, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1829
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