Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Heed Amnesty's Sobering Alarm

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Heed Amnesty's Sobering Alarm

Article excerpt

Even if one agrees with the list of criticisms in Amnesty International's latest country report, the phrase still is jarring: human rights abuses in the United States (see story page 7).

One Midwest paper harrumphed that comparing the United States with some "Third World hellhole" missed the mark. "If Amnesty is truly serious about addressing gross system-wide violations of the human rights of those accused of crimes, it can find more fertile ground away from America's shores."

That is an understandable reaction. After all, isn't the United States the defender of human rights, the protector of freedom and the world's leading advocate of democracy?

In many ways the answer is yes on all counts. Yet in so many other ways we have departed from that reputation and from the images that so easily trip off the tongue. The 153-page report, "Rights for All," is best taken as a wakeup call from outside observers who may have the optimum vantage point for spotting dangerous erosion of the United States' enviable justice system.

Amnesty International has gained a well-deserved credibility throughout the world for its evenhanded assessment of human rights abuses. Its monitoring transcends national interests and ideologies. The Nobel Peace Prize it received in 1977 is but one testament to its reputation.

The countless political prisoners who have been spared or whose horror stories have not been left in some subterranean torture chamber are proof of the organization's powerful work.

So one can only presume that Amnesty is not out to undermine its credibility by making frivolous claims about the most influential and powerful country on earth. …

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