DAWN, December 11, 2001

Big powers repressing human rights, AI chief

By A Reporter

ISLAMABAD, Dec 10: Amnesty International (AI) Secretary-General Irene Khan said here on Monday that big powers were using the campaign against terrorism to repress human rights in the world.

She was the keynote speaker at a conference arranged by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) and other civil society organizations to mark the International Human Rights Day.

Ms Khan quoted instances of repression against peaceful Islamic groups in Egypt and China, anti-terrorism legislation in India, emergency legislation in the UK under which foreigners can be arrested on suspicion, and establishment of military courts and detention of thousands of Muslims and Arabs in the United States itself.

The AI secretary-general said, anti-terrorism laws were draconian and discriminatory in nature which created xenophobia and racism. She said that making scapegoats was not the solution.

Talking about double-standards in international law, she said it was time for truth to come out.

"Governments denounce Taliban but are silent on the human rights status in Saudi Arabia, particularly women rights; highlight violations of human rights in Iraq, but ignore those in Israel and they want Al Qaeda to be brought to justice, but do not want to talk about similar organizations in other places."

Ms Khan urged the participants to build a coalition of Afghan and Pakistani organizations for human rights. She said: "Let us build a coalition to protect child rights in Afghanistan.

Eminent human rights activist Asma Jahangir expressed the hope that next year the HRCP, Rawa and Amnesty International would commemorate Human Rights Day in Kabul with other civil society organizations.

She said an international peacekeeping force should be deployed in Kabul so that the armed gangs were stopped from derailing the Bonn Peace Accord with the setting up of Hamid Karzai's interim government.

Ms Jehangir emphasised the need to demilitarize the country and instil secular thoughts so that Pakistan gets a peaceful Afghanistan on its western border.

Asma Jahangir recalled the days when Afghanistan produced poets, philosophers and women had rights. She said that all those who destroyed the country should not be allowed to go free and asked the international community to set up war crime tribunals for Afghanistan.

Mehmood Khan Achakzai of Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP), speaking to the largely Pakhtoon audiencefrom both sides of the Durrand Line, said lasting peace in Afghanistan was possible only if there was democracy in Afghanistan and a democratic federation in Pakistan.

Issuing a road-map for lasting peace in the region he said we have to realise that Afghanistan is the heart of Asia and then make serious efforts to stop foreign interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.

He said Afghanistan had suffered from foreign invasions starting with the invasion of Alexander the Great and leading up to the invasion by Pakistani agencies through Taliban.

He said Afghanistan had been left to its neighbours to decide its fate and termed the Shanghai-Five and six-plus-two as a farce against the people of Afghanistan. He quoted former ISI chief Gen Akhtar Abdul Rehman as asking his confidantes that Kabul must burn because it was a dynamo that supplied energy to the Afghan people.

A declaration was issued by around 300 civil society representatives of Afghanistan and Pakistan reaffirming faith in the inviolable dignity of all human beings and their equal entitlement to all basic freedoms and rights.

[RAWA Homepage] [More reports from Afghanistan] [RAWA Photo Gallery]