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Amnesty Report Cites Daily Atrocities In Many Countries

  • Stuart Parrott



London, June 18 (RFE/RL) - In a busy market place in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, crowds of people were thronging the stalls one Sunday last November when, without warning, bombs rained down from the sky. When the smoke cleared,180 people were found to be dead or wounded. Among them were dozens of children.

Less than a week later, in a different residential area, another market square was full of people buying food. Once again deadly weapons slammed into the crowd. This time there were 45 casualties

The international human rights movement, Amnesty International, today cites the two market attacks as examples of what it terms "atrocities" being committed almost daily in Afghanistan.

Both attacks were launched by the rebel Islam Taleban militia, but -- in the report's words -- "The exhausted citizens of Kabul have endured years of arbitrary killings by various armed factions, all equally indifferent to their suffering."

In its annual report, published today, Amnesty says artillery attacks are killing scores of unarmed Afghan civilians almost every week. It says the scale of the bloodshed is an indictment of the international community. It says powerful and neighboring governments poured weapons into the hands of warring factions for more than a decade after Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan in 1979. It says they sought to increase their influence in the region through the internal politics of Afghanistan, regardless of the consequences for Afghan civilians. In the words of the report: "They were well aware that their allies were committing gross and widespread human rights abuses." Amnesty said that outside governments helped to set the stage for "today's catastrophic human rights situation and so they must take particular responsibility for bringing the abuses to an end." The report adds: "Yet governments which rushed to arm the warring factions during the Cold War years now ignore the legacy of armed conflict and human rights abuses."

Last autumn, Amnesty International launched a special appeal to the United States, Russia, some of their allies, and Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Saudia Arabia and India. The appeal called on these nations to take responsibility for the use made of the arms they had supplied, and to help the Afghan people rebuild institutions to protect human rights.

Amnesty International highlights the continuing bloodshed in Afghanistan in its 360-page annual report which covers human rights abuses in 146 countries last year (1995).

The report says that governments world-wide are failing to prevent massive human rights violations committed by other governments, often preferring to ignore suffering in the search for profits. The report details atrocities committed by governments and armed opposition groups, such as deliberate and indiscriminate killings, torture and ill-treatment, as well as disappearances.

Pierre Sane, secretary-general of Amnesty International, says: "The international community tries to wash its hands of these atrocities by claiming that they are 'local affairs' over which they have no influence.

But who is arming and training those committing the atrocities?" "The truth is that these same governments who deny responsibility are busy promoting and organizing the export of military and security equipment to people who have shown time and time again that they use these weapons and devices to kill and torture their victims."

Amnesty calls on all governments to prohibit the sale of military, security and police equipment to any state where there is evidence it could be used to commit rights violations.

Sane said: "Responsibility for human rights abuses does not lie only with those who pull the trigger or apply the electric shock. It also lies with those who supply the weapons and training needed to use them."

Amnesty says bloodshed in countries such as Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Burundi was the most visible illustration of rights abuses committed during armed conflicts in 1995, but violations also took place in prison cells and police stations from Colombia to China.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bosnian Serb forces abducted thousands of people, many of whom were believed to have been deliberately and arbitrarily killed. Many non-Serb civilians were killed, raped and threatened during forcible expulsions from Bosnian Serb-held land. The report says: "All sides in the conflict held hundreds of prisoners of conscience, most of whom were detained solely on account of their national group. Many detainees were reportedly tortured, ill-treated or made to perform forced labour in dangerous conditions."

The Amnesty International report draws these additional conclusions: In Russia, Russian forces were responsible for widespread rights violations in the Chechnya conflict. The report says: "These violations included possible indiscriminate killings of civilians, extrajudicial executions, torture and ill-treatment and detention without trial. There were numerous allegations of torture and ill-treatment in detention."

In Turkey, the report says, the conflict between government forces and armed members of the secessionist Kurdish Workers' Party, claimed 4,000 lives in 1995. Amnesty has received an increasing number of reports of children being subject to torture.

In Algeria, hundreds of people were known to have been extra-judicially executed by the security forces and government-backed militias. Many were killed in their homes in front of their families.

In Saudi Arabia, the judicial punishments of amputation and flogging continued to be imposed for a wide range of offences. Amnesty says it is particularly concerned about the rapid technological development in the industrialized countries of new security equipment which is now spreading around the world.

The report says: "Some of these technologies can easily be misused -- they lend themselves to human rights abuses if put into the wrong hands."
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