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World powers hold themselves ‘above the law’, Amnesty says

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2010-05-28

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has criticised the United States, China and Russia for withholding support for the International Criminal Court and cited France for its weak response to police violence in its annual report.

The United States, China and Russia must become signatories to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and support progress in global justice, Amnesty International said in its annual report on human rights abuses released on Thursday.   

The three major powers and other influential nations consider the actions of their governments to be beyond the reach of international law, the group’s "State of the World's Human Rights" report said.

"Our report shows that powerful states hold themselves above the law and protect their allies so justice is only served when expedient," Amnesty’s interim Secretary General Claudio Cordone said at the report's launch. Cordone said the London-based group wanted "to ensure that no one is above the law".   

Amnesty maintains that no nation can justify refusing to support the ICC, which is the only permanent independent court that has jurisdiction to try cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

"If governments are serious about justice, then they realise that this court is operating to proper human rights standards, and there should be no reason why it shouldn't be supported,” Cordone said.  

The group also repeated its calls for India, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to drop their resistance to the court.

Cordone did say, however, that he was hopeful US resistance to the ICC was becoming less strident under President Barack Obama.
   
"We feel that such opposition may be softening," he said in an interview with AFP, adding that, "in the end, I am optimistic that the United States will join the court".

Amnesty also hailed the ICC’s decision last year to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir in connection with allegations of war crimes in Darfur and condemned the African Union for refusing to act on it.

Al-Beshir, who continued to travel internationally with relative impunity despite the ICC warrant, was sworn in for another term today in Khartoum.  

France cited for police violence

Amnesty singled out France for turning a blind eye to police violence, saying that investigations into allegations of excessive force lacked rigour.

“Disciplinary procedures and judicial investigations for these incidents continue to be far from international standards,” the report said.  

The group also criticised recent French attempts to ban women from wearing the Islamic veil in public and alleged that refugees and asylum seekers faced harsh treatment upon entering the country.

The report condemned Russia for the systematic violence that seems to descend upon those actively defending human rights in the country. In the past year, "human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists were threatened and physically attacked; some were killed," the report said, adding: "A climate of impunity for these crimes prevailed."
   
Amnesty went on to call for Thailand to allow international investigators to help probe the army's violent crackdown on “red shirt” anti-government protesters this month.

Cordone conceded that red shirt demonstrators had been armed when they faced off with security forces in downtown Bangkok, but said the severity of the Thai forces’ response was unwarranted. "In their response, we saw the army shooting indiscriminately among demonstrators and sometimes, apparently, they were targeting unarmed people," he told AFP.

 

Date created : 2010-05-27

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