Amnesty backs world court

May 27, 2010 12:00 am

, LONDON, May 27 – Amnesty on Thursday called for the US, China and Russia to sign up to the International Criminal Court, in a hard-hitting report alleging powerful governments have blocked advances in global justice.

The trio and four of their fellow G20 nations – India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – must drop their opposition to the ICC, Amnesty said, as it unveiled its annual snapshot of global human rights.

The head of the London-based organisation also called on Thailand to allow international investigators to help probe the army\’s crackdown on protesters this month.

Amnesty International\’s interim Secretary General Claudio Cordone said the group wanted "to ensure that no one is above the law".

"Our report shows that powerful states hold themselves above the law and protect their allies so justice is only served when expedient," he said at the report\’s launch.

The group said no country could justify its refusal to fully sign up to the ICC – the only independent, permanent court with authority to try genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

However, Cordone told AFP he was confident that the initially fierce US opposition to the court was lessening under President Barack Obama.

"We feel that such opposition may be softening," he said in an interview.

"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.

"So in the end I am optimistic that the United States will join the court."

While hailing the ICC\’s arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir over alleged war crimes in Darfur last year as a "landmark", Amnesty condemned the African Union for refusing to act on it.

Cordone said he hoped that, now South Africa had broken ranks and vowed to arrest Beshir if he steps on its soil, the rest of the African continent would follow suit.

Amnesty is deeply concerned about this month\’s riots on the streets of Bangkok, Cordone told AFP.

He conceded that Thai security forces had been confronted by opposition demonstrators using firearms.

"But in their response we saw the army shooting indiscriminately among demonstrators and sometimes apparently they were targeting unarmed people."

The riots had been quashed, but an unknown number of demonstrators remained in unofficial detention centres in which there was a risk that rights abuses could go unpunished, he said.

"The first step for the government is to disclose how many people they are holding so that proper access can be granted.

"At the same time, there is also a need for a proper investigation and the Thai government may want to ask for international assistance to make sure that this investigation is independent and credible," Cordone said.

In its annual report, the group highlighted the plight of civilians caught up in last year\’s bloody fighting between Sri Lankan government troops and the remnants of the once powerful Tamil Tiger rebel army.

Some 7,000 civilians had been killed by the time the Tigers were defeated, according to UN estimates, and Amnesty says there is increasing evidence that war crimes and other abuses were committed by both sides.

"There has been no accountability, no one has been brought to justice for the serious crimes that took place particularly in the last phase of the war between the Tigers and the government," Cordone said.

In the Middle East, Amnesty said Saudi Arabia has made minor progress on its dismal human rights record but the powerful state security apparatus and the conservative religious regime continue to block real change.

In Russia, the report lamented, "human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists were threatened and physically attacked; some were killed."

"A climate of impunity for these crimes prevailed," it said.

For the United States, Guantanamo Bay was still open despite Obama\’s commitment to close the US-run prison, while detainees continued to be held at Bagram airbase prison in Afghanistan "in violation of international standards," it noted.


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