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Politics of fear fuelling divisions - Amnesty
Paul Majendie, Reuters
May 22, 2007

LONDON, May 23 (Reuters) - The politics of fear are fuelling human rights abuses and creating a dangerously divided world, Amnesty International said in a sombre assessment of man's inhumanity around the globe.

"Our world is as polarised as it was at the height of the Cold War and in many ways far more dangerous," Irene Khan, secretary-general of the human rights pressure group said in its latest annual report published on Wednesday.

She said fear has been a positive motivator for change over global warming with politicians being forced belatedly into action by the pressure of public opinion.

But she said fear was being used to erode the rights of people -- all in the name of greater security.

Pointing an accusing finger around the globe from Washington to Harare, Amnesty blamed governments for undermining human rights and feeding racism with short-sighted, fear-mongering and divisive policies.

"The politics of fear are fuelling a downward spiral of human rights abuses in which no right is sacrosanct," Khan said in the 2007 dossier from the pressure group which boasts 2.2 million members in more than 150 countries.

"The 'war on terror' and the war in Iraq, with their catalogue of human rights abuses, have created deep divisions that cast a shadow on international relations," she said.

Amnesty accused President Bush of invoking fear of terrorism to enhance his executive power. "The U.S. administration's double speak has been breathtakingly shameless," it said.

The pressure group said the Sudanese government is running rings round the United Nations over Darfur where 200,000 people have died in the conflict.

"Darfur is a bleeding wound on world conscience," it said.

Amnesty said Australian Prime Minister John Howard's government had raised a false alarm by portraying desperate asylum-seekers in leaky boats as a threat to Australia's national security.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe played on racial fears to push his own political agenda and grab land for his supporters, Amnesty said.

The human rights update makes for grim reading -- from the prosecution of writers in Turkey to the killing of left-wing activists in the Philippines and soaring violence in Brazil.

In Colombia and Cambodia, in Cuba and Uzbekistan, Amnesty said the Internet has become the new frontier in the struggle for the right to dissent.

It said increasing polarisation had strengthened the hand of extremists with Islamophobia and anti-Semitism both on the increase. Fear feeds discontent and discrimination, it said.

But after chronicling a catalogue of unremitting gloom, Amnesty did end its annual report on a positive note, arguing that human rights can be as effectively tackled as global warming if public opinion can be galvanised around the planet.

"People Power will change the face of human rights in the 21st century. Hope is very much alive," it said.

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