- WASHINGTON, 5.10.98 (AP): The United States measures other countries against
a lofty ideal when it comes to human rights, but it frequently violates
these standards within its own borders, Amnesty International contends.
- From prisoners forced to wear shock-emitting
stun belts to police who beat suspects without cause, the 153-page report
provides the group's first comprehensive look at human rights violations
in the United States.
- Amnesty International accuses the United
States of maintaining a double standard: criticizing other countries while
not abiding by international treaties and principles of human rights itself.
The United States...has failed to sign the U.N. Convention on the Rights
of the Child, which seeks to promote human rights for children.
- ``When the U.S. house is not in order,
it makes it far harder for the U.S. to take the kind of leadership role
in international human rights that many of us in Amnesty would like to
see it take,'' says William Schulz, executive director of the American
chapter of the London-based organization.
- Amnesty, a longtime vocal opponent of
capital punishment, admonished the United States for its continued use
of the death penalty. The country should move to abolish the system, which
is ``racist, arbitrary and unfair,'' the group said.
- U.S. authorities have executed more than
350 prisoners since 1990, and another 3,300 prisoners await execution on
death row, the report noted, and some states execute juveniles and persons
with mental retardation.
- International standards dictate...law
enforcement officers should use force only as a last resort and in proportion
to the threat they encounter. But the report accuses police of frequently
disregarding these standards, beating and abusing suspects unnecessarily.
- The 1997 case of Abner Louima, a Haitian
immigrant allegedly tortured by New York City police, recently propelled
the problem into the public spotlight. ...the report also points to abuses
in other cities such as Philadelphia _ where police allegedly conducted
unjustified traffic stops and searches, particularly on minorities _ and
Pittsburgh _ where drug squad officers allegedly planted evidence on suspects
and falsified reports.
- The report criticizes officers who use
stun guns _ a handheld device with two metal prongs that emits an electric
shot _ or who ``hogtie'' suspects by binding their wrists and ankles together.
- Stun guns, like any tool, can be misused,
said a spokesman for the National Association of Chiefs of Police. But
``it's actually one of the better devices, if used properly,'' said Gerald
- Arenberg also acknowledged...police can
benefit from oversight, urging those who believe they have been victimized
to contact such authorities as the FBI or state attorney.
- ``I think we do need someone watching
over our shoulders,'' Arenberg said.
- Prison facilities are another site of
frequent human rights violations, the report alleges, saying inmates fall
victim to excessive force by guards, sexual abuse by fellow inmates and
cruel use of restraints, such as leg-irons and restraint chairs.
- Some prisoners are forced to wear remote
control stun belts, which emit a shock when activated by guards. The stun
belts, used by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, 100 county agencies and at least
16 state correctional facilities, cause severe pain and incapacitation,
says the report.
- ``Amnesty International believes...such
devices are inherently subject to, and even invite, abuse,'' the report
- While the United States prides itself
as a haven for the persecuted, asylum seekers often end up thrown in jail,
detained indefinitely and treated as criminals, says the report.
- Immigration and Naturalization Service
officials stressed ...people are not detained simply for seeking asylum
and denied...they are detained for prolonged periods.
- ``The seeking of asylum is not what gets
you in detention,'' said INS spokesman Andrew Lluberes. Those who enter
the country without proper documents or who falsify their identity can
be placed in the expedited removal process, but can be granted asylum by
an immigration judge, he said.
- He added...from October 1997 to October
1998, the 523 people who were eventually ordered removed by an immigration
judge stayed an average of 59 days. Another 709 spent 34 days in detention
while their claims were heard and 640 spent 93 days in detention before
appearing before an immigration judge.
- Part of a yearlong campaign focusing
on human rights issues in the United States, the report recommends establishing
independent bodies to monitor allegations of police brutality and abuse
in prisons. It calls for a ban on dangerous restraint devices, and also
asks...the United States ensure asylum seekers are detained only as a last