Vol. 5 Num 351 Wed. May 25, 2005  

Amnesty Says in Its Annual Report
'Pockets of repression' mar rights progress in Asia

Amnesty International said Wedne-sday Asia had recorded some progress on human rights but warned that "pockets of repression" remained, with many abuses committed in the name of the "war on terror".

In its annual report, the London-based human rights watchdog singled out for "grave human rights violations" the long-festering conflicts in Nepal, northeast India and Indonesia's Aceh province.

It also voiced concern about the newly-emerged conflict that has flared in southern Thailand, where at least 78 demonstrators suffocated inside army lorries and 500 people had been killed by the end of last year.

Human rights abuses were also frequent in Asian conflicts where both sides were working on a resolution -- in Kashmir, Sri Lanka and the Philippines -- and in little-watched troublespots, such as the 30-year-old conflict in Laos.

The group also said there were grave concerns for the human rights of vulnerable groups affected by the tsunami that killed more than 250,000 people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.

In its annual report, which follows recent reports of prisoner abuse in Afghanistan, the group highlighted violations committed in the US-led "war on terror" in Afghanistan and Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal area.

"In Afghanistan, hundreds of people suspected of being sympathisers of the Taliban or al-Qaeda were held in long-term arbitrary detention at Bagram airbase and other detention centres run by the US armed forces," it said.

"Without access to judicial authorities, the detainees were effectively beyond the reach or protection of the law."

Islamic minorities were also targeted in China's northwestern Uighur region, where many were arbitrarily arrested as "separatists, terrorists and religious extremists", the report said.

Islamist terrorists, meanwhile, had killed civilians in bomb attacks on the Australian embassy in Jakarta and a ferry in Manila Bay.

Amnesty International noted some positive developments for human rights and peace in Asia, including the diplomatic thaw between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan.

Human rights had been debated at large meetings in Mumbai, Seoul and Kathmandu and had "shaped many political agendas" in elections in Afghanistan, Australia, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and South Korea.

"Tentative moves towards democratisation and increased human rights" had also been made in Brunei, the Maldives and Bhutan.

The secluded Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan had abolished the death penalty, bucking the trend on the continent with the highest number of executions.