May 28, 2003 | Broadcast

Q & A with Jim Clancy

JIM CLANCY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The war on terror under attack. Amnesty International says abuses of human rights, fear and danger are what have come out of the war on terror. Amnesty’s conclusion: the world is now a more dangerous place.

On this edition of Q&A, if we’re winning the war on terror, why are we losing our sense of security?


The human rights group Amnesty International says the U.S.-led war on terror has created fear and it’s created danger as well, all of it in the name of security, at least.

It says basic rights have been denied, that the rule of international law has been undermined, and that governments have been shielded from scrutiny. Amnesty says the war on terror has caused divisions among people of different faiths and sown the seeds of more conflict.

Now with their views, from London, Claudio Cordone. He’s the legal director of Amnesty International. And from Washington, Cliff May. He’s the president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

We also are going to be hearing from you. We’re going to open up the phone lines in just a moment. You can call us at 404-525-6888, but give us a moment here as we begin.

Claudio, if you can just tell us, is this really the war on terror or the abuse of the war on terror, you think, that has led to the kinds of problems described in this report?

CLAUDIO CORDONE, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: The war on terror has been characterized by a lot of abuses. That’s the real problem.

Obviously, groups like al Qaeda must be dealt with. These are groups that are promoting a racist agenda through murderous means. They should be brought to justice and their actions should be prevented.

But what we’re saying is that should be done in a fair way. The way the war on terror has been conducted by the United States and by many countries around the world has resulted in using the pretext in a sense for the danger posed by these groups called terrorists, and in that way introducing laws to repress legitimate freedom of expression, detaining people arbitrarily, torture, and the like.

So it’s the way in which the war on terror has been conducted that is the problem, and it is having long-term consequences for the overall struggle against human rights abuses, both by groups such as al Qaeda and by governments.

CLANCY: All right. Clifford May, I want you to weigh in quickly here, because I want to get right — I’ve already got people on hold that want to weigh in on this subject as well. But does Amnesty have things turned a little bit around here?

CLIFFORD MAY, FOUNDATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: I think they have things totally turned around. I think this report is something of an embarrassment for Amnesty, which used to be a serious organization, and this report represents the worst kind of reflexive anti-Americanism with an organization that was against the U.S. efforts to secure regime change in Iraq and is very interested in promoting an agenda of one-world government.

If you look at what their actually — these charges we’ve heard are absolutely baseless, and when you look at the specific charges, it’s worse than that.

For example, Amnesty says that the Libyan-led U.N. Human Rights Commission did not condemn Cuba’s abuses in the human rights area. That’s true, but how is that America’s fault and how does that have anything to do with the war against terrorism? It’s totally disconnected.

CLANCY: All right, let’s get to the phones straight away — Mary, in Geneva.

MARY, CALLER: Would you tell me.

CLANCY: Mary, go ahead. Your question.

MARY, CALLER: My question is now, I think that something is getting wrong now. The — right now, after all this time, that all these people, all these countries, which they have never done anything for human rights, they have been killing the young children, university students and the ladies, especially in Iran, Iraq and all those countries, which now we have America standing up against all this terrorism, and all around the world, especially, in Libya, everywhere it’s happening.

Now, where were these human rights people — what do they done for whole world?

CLANCY: All right, Claudio, should there be a little more emphasis in this report on the people that have actually been violating human rights, the governments in places like our caller, Mary, there, was referring to?

CORDONE: Our report actually is our global report. It covers more than 150 countries and territories and it highlights equally abuses by every kind of government and every kind of armed group.

What we’re saying though is that we’re trying to emphasize one of the best tools to deal with human rights abuses, both by armed groups and by governments, is for example to assure a fully effective international system of justice, implementation of universal jurisdiction, giving a change to International Criminal Court, that had it been in place in the last couple of decades maybe it would have been able to deal with the likes of the government of Saddam Hussein and other repressive governments around the world.

CLANCY: All right.

CORDONE: And that’s the system, where actually we see the United States leading a campaign against.


CLANCY: Let me bring in Michael, in Germany.

MICHAEL, CALLER: Hi, Mr. Clancy. It’s nice to hear you.

I do have a couple of questions. I have one that I’ve just formed. What kind of recourse do I have as a normal person with a just cause to avoid government sponsored terrorism against me?

CLANCY: Claudio.

CORDONE: Well, your government certainly must take — make sure that you’re not the victim of suicide bombs or any other forms of acts of violence of that kind. But at the same time, if the same government tortures people, if the same government detained people arbitrarily, when they could bring them to justice and show what they’ve done and punish them but instead uses systems that violate international law, in that sense your government is letting you down by violating fundamental principles and as a result also by generating further acts of violence.

CLANCY: Clifford, I know you’ve been wanting to get in here. Go ahead. Your thoughts on these questions.

MAY: Well, I mean, Claudio is talking about the United Nations and the international system, and I wish Amnesty International would scrutinize a little more thoroughly the international system as it now stands.

The international system and the United Nations did nothing about the genocide in Rwanda, nothing about the massive killings in Cambodia, did very little to help the situation in places like Bosnia and places like Kosovo, has exacerbated the Arab-Israeli crisis, has done nothing about what’s going on in Zimbabwe right now.

The international system needs tremendous reform, and to say the United States and other nations, like Great Britain, should not do anything or should reign themselves in when they’re trying to fight terrorists who want to kill innocent civilians and just leave this to the International Criminal Court or leave this to Kofi Annan at the United Nations is absolutely unrealistic and can only result in many more mass deaths, as we have seen over and over again in the past.

CLANCY: Yes, but the United Nations — before we do that, let me get to Ali. He’s in Kenya. Ali, your question please for our guests.

ALI, CALLER: Yes, my question please is, is this war led by America really a war against terror or a war for terror? Because we are really surprised, the world is becoming more unsafe than it was before. And who is really mandated to lead the war against terror? That is my question. Is it the United Nations or is it the United States?

CLANCY: Clifford?

MAY: Well, it was the United States that was attacked on 9-11, not the United Nations. I don’t think the United Nations has shown that it has an ability to fight a war against terrorism.

CLANCY: But it’s helped, hasn’t it?

MAY: I don’t know in any way it has. Look, if you look at Saddam Hussein and his brutal butchery over the past 25 years, what did the United Nations or any other nation or Amnesty International do about it? I don’t think they did anything about it. And Saddam Hussein could have gone on for another decade or two and there would have been no response whatsoever. The Iraqi people would have suffered under that oppressive regime for as long as it took.

CLANCY: Well, you know, I think that you don’t give enough credit here to the United Nations. Things like opium crop production, the United Nations has really taken a role in all of that, and it has brought together countries that you might not have expected to help out, countries like Iran, mentioned so prominently lately.

Is it wrong here — instead of working together with all of the agencies that are out there, Claudio, is there a failure here to bring people onboard, to bring more people in, to coordinate more, instead of unilateral action?

CORDONE: The United Nations certainly needs reform, including in its human rights machinery. There’s no doubt about that.

But let’s not forget what is the United Nations. The United Nations is composed of its member states, and the Security Council does reflect the views of the five powers, and the United States has a very strong influence in there.

So when we say, you know, what the United Nations did with regard to Rwanda or what is it doing with regard to the Congo now, and the Cote D’Ivoire and the like, well, what are the Security Council members doing about it? That’s the real question. And certainly we would want to see more action, to make sure that some acts, such as the genocide of the past, are not repeated, and the like, and that’s, you know, really up to the countries in the Security Council in working through the United Nations.

But each country has its own responsibility to protect it’s own national. All we’re asking is that it’s done in a fair way, because in the end it’s also the effective way.


MAYS: The United States has done that.

CLANCY: Let me get in — and here’s one I’m going to hand right to you, and that is, Vicki, from Greece, wrote this in to us in an e-mail, and she brings up a point we haven’t been talking about.

“Does holding prisoners at Guantanamo without trial and one plan to build an execution chamber there signal the start of a dangerous trend by so-called democratic governments”?

What do you think — Clifford.

MAY: I’ve heard nothing about this so-called execution chamber that she’s talking about.

CLANCY: Neither have I.

MAY: So that’s just another rumor being thrown out there.

As far as the detentions in Guantanamo, we’ve released any number of people, but yes they are brought there for questioning, so we can find out about planned terrorist attacks. These are unlawful combatants who need to be dealt with as part of the war against terrorism.

What else should we do? Should we capture terrorists and not question them? Should we — I mean, there are those who really do not want an effective war against terrorism, but I particularly object to Amnesty International suggesting that as America tries to fight this war against terrorism and balance liberty with order as best we possibly can, and certainly the court system of this country — nothing has come up to the Supreme Court, as would suggest there had been any violations of human rights — to suggest that all around the world we are less safe and there have been violations of human rights and essentially to blame it on the United States and the United States war against terrorism.

I just think that’s irresponsible and there is just no basis for that charge. The United States has not done anything of that sort.

CLANCY: All right. I’ve got Dan, from Hungary, I’ve got time for one more question.

CORDONE: Let’s take the example of Guantanamo and how this is being reflected around the world. I mean, in Guantanamo Bay, what’s wrong with – – bring to justice those who are detained there or release them. It’s been more than a year. These people are held there with no legal status. They don’t know what’s going to happen.

What we have at the moment is military commissions. When they start working, these are commissions which will not respect fundamental principles of fair trial, that, you know, basically go against what are some of the deeply ingrained principles in the U.S. system of due process. They’re not being applied there, and there is absolutely no need to do that.

You can bring people accused of the worst crimes to justice, show what they’ve done, punish them, and you can do that fairly.


CLANCY: Dan, from Hungary, is on the line. Very quickly, Dan, your question. I’ve got less than a minute.

DAN, CALLER: My question is, isn’t Amnesty International politicizing or using their brief to politicize the problem and to gain politicism (ph), the same way Belgium is using their tribunal to politicize (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CLANCY: All right. Are you politicizing this — Claudio.

MAY: I think they are.

CORDONE: No, we’re not. We’re trying to look at — trying to look at the reality, which is we have a serious problem, which is referred to as terrorism. It’s not the only problem. There are other violations happening around the world. The United States can play a key role and we’d like them to play a role in favor of human rights, not against it.

CLANCY: All right.

MAY: The United States is not playing a role against human rights. That’s a terrible allegation for which you have absolutely no evidence, and the fact of the matter is, I don’t think the American public or other publics around the world are going to trust Amnesty International to design a program against terrorism, which we can call terrorism, not so-called terrorism, and we have.


CLANCY: We have to leave it there. Clifford May, Claudio Cordone, gentlemen, thanks to you both for a great discussion of a very important topic.

That has to be this edition of Q&A. We’ll have more news coming up in just a moment.