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Amnesty: Iraq war cover for human rights abuses

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LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Human rights group Amnesty International warned on Sunday that war in Iraq was giving cover to other countries to trample on human rights.

Amnesty said that since the U.S.-British onslaught was launched against Iraq 10 days ago, there had been a human rights backlash in 14 countries.

It listed Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Jordan, Norway, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Turkey, the United States and Yemen as transgressors.

"Governments appear to be using the world's focus on the theater of war to violate human rights shielded from public scrutiny," the group said in a report.

Since March 20, millions of people had taken to the streets in protest and faced excessive force from police in seven countries, it said. Deaths, beatings and torture had been reported.

In Sudan, three students were reported to have been killed during protests. In Greece police beat Iraqi immigrants, and Turkish riot police used batons to disperse a crowd outside a mosque, Amnesty said.

Belgium had placed more than 450 anti-war demonstrators under preventive arrest, and in Britain police were stopping and searching people "without reasonable suspicion."

The group also highlighted what it said was restriction of asylum rights by a host of countries.

Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Britain have frozen decisions on Iraqi asylum claims, and in the United States tough new security measures -- named "Operation Liberty Shield" -- allows for the detention of asylum seekers from Iraq and at least 33 other countries, it said.

"From Egypt to the USA, from Belgium to Sudan, governments must respect fundamental rights and refrain from using the war in Iraq as a pretext for curtailing or abusing these rights," Amnesty said in a statement.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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