Amnesty International turns on U.S.

Barry Stoller bstoller at
Wed May 30 17:18:39 MDT 2001

Reuters; Associated Press. 30 May 2001. U.S. No Longer a Leader on Human
Rights, Amnesty International Says; Amnesty International Raps U.S. on
Death Penalty. Combined reports.

WASHINGTON — The United States no longer leads on international human
rights issues and often sacrifices its concerns for political
expediency, the U.S. branch of Amnesty International said Wednesday as
it marked its 40th anniversary.

"We have no prominent leaders in government sounding the clarion call
for human rights," said William Schulz, the executive director of
Amnesty International USA. "Instead, we have a U.S. government that has
abdicated its duty to lead."

Presenting the organization's annual report, Schulz said the group's
greatest disappointment was the decline of U.S. leadership on human
rights. As examples he cited the U.S. failure to ratify a convention to
ban anti-personnel land mines and opposition to establishment of an
international criminal court.

Amnesty International [also] took aim at the United States on Wednesday
for its death penalty policies and ranked the Texas Board of Pardons and
Parole among the world's "human rights scoundrels."

With convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh set for execution on
June 11 and two of four men convicted of bombing U.S. embassies in East
Africa now possible candidates for the death penalty, Amnesty accused
the United States of abdicating its global role as a leader on human

"America's continuing use of the death penalty is another example of the
failure of human rights leadership," said William Schulz, the U.S.
director of the international group which has its headquarters in

Schulz was speaking at a news conference to release a global report on
rights abuses in the year 2000.

"It is no wonder that the U.S. was ousted from the United Nations Human
Rights Commission," Schulz said. "That defeat was precipitated in part
by waning U.S. influence and double standards practices by various
administrations and Congresses in the U.S."

He said the United States "stands in the same shameful death penalty
league as China, Iran and Saudi Arabia."

These four countries account for 88 percent of all known state killings,
Schulz said, noting that they go counter to an international trend: more
than 60 countries have abolished the death penalty since the United
States resumed executions in 1977.

Amnesty's report also criticized the execution of U.S. prisoners who
were under 18 when they committed crimes, the mentally impaired and
those who got inadequate legal representation.

In its list of human rights heroes and scoundrels, the human rights
watchdog cited the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole "for operating a
flawed and unfair review of death penalty cases, reviewing clemency
petitions in secret and voting by fax or telephone without due process

The group noted that Texas executed 40 prisoners in 2000, and imposed
the death penalty 150 times during the five-year governorship of George
W. Bush, who was elected U.S. president in November.

The year 2000 saw 85 U.S. prisoners executed in 14 states, bringing the
total number of executions to 683 since the Supreme Court lifted a
moratorium on the death penalty in 1976.

The other U.S. entity on the heroes-and-scoundrels list was Unocal
Corp., a California-based energy company criticized for giving financial
support to the military government of Myanmar through its business
operations there.

Besides the death penalty, Amnesty criticized the United States for
cases of police brutality, racial discrimination, torture and ill
treatment in prisons and jails, abuse of incarcerated children and
maltreatment of women prisoners.

Amnesty International was born on May 28, 1961, when The Observer
newspaper in London published a piece by London lawyer Peter Benenson
calling for the release of "prisoners of conscience" incarcerated
because of their beliefs or origins.

Forty years later, the group employs more than 350 staff and has an
annual budget of almost $28 million. It says it has so far dealt with
the cases of 47,000 prisoners of conscience.


Barry Stoller

Proletarian news & Leninist debate

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