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Since September 11, the U.S. government has extended new military assistance to governments engaged in serious human rights abuse, including torture, political killings, illegal detention, religious persecution, and attacks on civilians during armed conflict, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 15-page report, "Dangerous Dealings: Changes in U.S. Military Assistance After September 11," says Congress and the administration have degraded human rights policy by lifting sanctions on arms transfers to countries with poor human rights records and by cutting required approval times for such transfers.

On January 9, for example, the United States rewarded Tajikistan for its support of the war on terrorism by lifting an eight-year-old ban on arms sales to that Central Asian state. Tajikistan has a history of torture, suppression of political opposition and the media, and arrests based on religion.

"These transfers won't make the United States more secure in the long run," said Joost R. Hiltermann, Executive Director of the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch. "And they make the United States complicit in the abuse of civilians in other countries."

In recent months, the United States has made almost daily announcements of foreign military aid, including deliveries of defense equipment, proposed arms sales, financial support, and military training. It has had to lift sanctions on several nations to allow such aid to go through. The United States has also dramatically increased military assistance to old allies that have gained new importance since September 11.

While Human Rights Watch does not take a stand on all transfers of military assistance, it opposes assistance to governments that engage in consistent patterns of gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

Human Rights Watch argues that the United States should carefully monitor its military assistance programs during this time of international conflict and should not loosen controls without regard to human rights consequences.

In October, the United States began delivering weapons and ammunition to anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan. Although it urged them to respect human rights, the United States made little effort to keep the equipment out of the hands of the worst human rights abusers. Some warlords are now maneuvering to undermine the new Afghan government's efforts to restore the rule of law.

In Central and South Asia, the U.S. government has rewarded political and military support with promises of military assistance. It has failed, however, to condition such aid on improvements in local human rights. Uzbekistan, for example, will receive $43 million in security aid, including $25 million in military assistance and training and $18 million for border security, as a result of its cooperation in the war on terrorism. Uzbekistan has a dismal human rights record, which includes torture and extensive religious persecution.

The effects of the new U.S. policy extend to the rest of the world.

President George Bush in November promised the Philippines $100 million in military aid. The United States has already delivered aircraft and hundreds of small arms and recently began a joint counterterrorism training mission with Philippine troops. In its most recent human rights report, however, the U.S. State Department said abuses by military and police forces include extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, torture, and arbitrary arrest and detention.

In response to its war on terrorism, the United States has also set up mechanisms to "fast-track" military assistance that may help expedite approval of billions of dollars of arms sales to the Middle East, such as a $1.12 billion package of F-16 fighter jets, missiles, and bombs to Oman.

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