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Rights Abuses Said to Be on Bigger Scale, More Brazen

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

The worldwide pattern of human rights violations is shifting from injustice against individuals and persecution in prisons to massive abuses openly undertaken in the streets, often without punishment, according to the 1995 Amnesty International annual report released Wednesday.

The most egregious case reflecting the change last year was the genocide of more than 500,000 Rwandans, primarily members of the minority Tutsi ethnic group who were murdered by rival Hutus, reported London-based Amnesty, an independent, non-governmental organization that has won the Nobel Peace Prize for its monitoring of human rights issues around the globe. Another 1 million or so Rwandans fled the country.

But killings, “disappearances,” torture and other major abuses were also carried out on a large scale in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Peru and Sierra Leone, the Amnesty survey of 151 countries reported.

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Despite the extraordinary political changes globally since 1989, human rights violations have increased markedly in virtually every category. Torture was documented last year in at least 120 countries, up from 96 in 1992.

And often the world now simply watches, Amnesty charged.

“Increasingly, these abuses are taking place with impunity, with the violations seldom investigated and the guilty rarely brought to justice,” said Pierre Sane, Amnesty’s secretary general in London.

Governments and opposition groups no longer make efforts to hide evidence of their atrocities because they believe that the international community will not make them pay a price, the report said. Some countries even legislate freedom from prosecution. Two weeks ago, Peru passed a law giving immunity to people linked with thousands of human rights abuses dating back 15 years.

The changing pattern also shows a growing tendency for financial gain to take precedence over human welfare, William F. Schulz, executive director of the U.S. branch of Amnesty, said at a news conference here Wednesday.

Rwanda’s Hutu militias, for example, are now being resupplied with the help of British arms dealers, the Bulgarian and Albanian governments and cargo companies registered in Russia, Ukraine, Nigeria and Ghana, Amnesty asserted.

The human rights picture is bleak even in countries that have successfully made the transition to democracy. After South Africa’s peaceful first multiracial election, the kind of political killings that were widespread in the apartheid era rose again sharply at the end of last year, Amnesty said.

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The United States was not exempt from criticism. Amnesty blasted U.S. attempts to entice China to improve its human rights record by withholding trade sanctions as a “dismal failure.”

Amnesty also criticized Washington for failing to expand its investigation into CIA ties with Guatemalan thugs to all cases of human rights abuses throughout Latin America in which U.S. intelligence has been involved.

The group also faulted the United States for the execution of 31 people in 1994. At the same time, the U.S. Death Row population increased to almost 3,000.

Elsewhere in the Americas, Amnesty blasted Guatemala and Colombia for significant increases in extrajudicial executions by the military or state-supported militias. Almost 300 human rights workers, indigenous activists, political opponents, trade unionists and journalists were killed in Guatemala and more than 1,000 were slain in Colombia last year.

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