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Human rights 'eroded worldwide'

Powerful governments and armed groups have been deliberately fomenting fear to erode human rights worldwide, a report by Amnesty International says.

The group's annual report on human rights says policies like those linked to the 'war on terror'are creating a more polarized and dangerous world. It says the world has been impotent in the face of major crises like Darfur. It urges governments to strengthen human rights bodies and defend the rule of law across the globe.

The document - Amnesty International Report 2007 - is the group's annual assessment of human rights country-by-country. „The politics of fear are fuelling a downward spiral of human rights abuses in which no right is sacrosanct and no person safe,” Amnesty International's Secretary General Irene Khan said ahead of the launch of the report.

The paper blames the world community for being 'weak-willed' in tackling human rights crises in 2006, whether in 'forgotten conflicts' in Chechnya and Colombia or 'high profiles ones' in the Middle East. During the Lebanon war, the report says, it took the UN weeks to call for a truce. Some 1,200 civilians lost their lives in the conflict. It also says the world 'showed no stomach' in tacking human rights abuses resulting from severe restrictions on freedom of movement of Palestinians, attacks by the Israeli army and also the Palestinian infighting.

Report's key facts and stats: death penalty in 2006: Some 24,000 people on death row; 3,861 people sentenced to death; 1,591 prisoners executed. Torture and terror in 2006: 102 nations had cases of torture by state authorities; 1,245 rendition flights in Europe's air space; 18,000 people held without trial by coalition troops in Iraq; 400 detainees held at Guantanamo Bay (Amnesty International data).

„Through short-sighted, fear-mongering and divisive policies, governments are undermining the rule of law and human rights, feeding racism and xenophobia,” Ms Khan said. „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. Ms Khan described the continuing conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region as a „bleeding wound on the world's conscience”.

The report says that armed groups in the region waged a campaign of terror in 2006, clearing whole communities from their villages. It also criticises the US government for what it said were kidnappings, arbitrary detention, tortures and secrets transfers of terror suspects - the practice known as 'extraordinary rendition'. Widespread human rights abuses in Afghanistan, Belarus, China, Iran, Russia, Syria, Vietnam and Zimbabwe are also mentioned in the report. (