(New York) - German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder should not sacrifice human rights concerns when mending fences with the United States, Human Rights Watch said ahead of Schröder’s meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House today.
 
"Chancellor Schröder's visit is being billed as an opportunity to restore close relations between Germany and the United States," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "But Germany should not mute its important voice on human rights in the process."  
 
Human Rights Watch urged Chancellor Schröder to press Washington for a new human rights and security strategy in Afghanistan. This should include ending U.S. collusion with the country's abusive warlords, deploying additional peacekeepers and U.N. human rights monitors outside Kabul, and ordering military provincial reconstruction teams to protect civilians.  
 
The German government has played a key role in Afghanistan's reconstruction, hosting the Bonn peace agreement in 2001, leading the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) until recently, and convening a major donors conference to be held in Berlin next month. Meanwhile, NATO has agreed to lead an expanded security force in Afghanistan that would deploy outside of Kabul. However, NATO members, including Germany and the United States, need to back this pledge with real commitments of troops, logistical and financial resources.  
 
"Germany knows firsthand how the United States' strategy of co-opting local warlords in Afghanistan has undermined security and human rights," Roth said. "Chancellor Schröder and President Bush should mobilize their NATO allies to rapidly expand security forces in Afghanistan."  
 
The German chancellor should warn Washington not to repeat the mistakes of Afghanistan in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said. In particular, the United States should not replicate the warlord strategy by supporting sectarian or ethnic militias, and it should bring Saddam Hussein and his subordinates to justice before a tribunal that meets international standards. Germany should also ensure its planned training program for Iraqi police includes a strong human rights component.  
 
Chancellor Schröder should also express concern about the fate of the hundreds of detainees still held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as the proposed trials for the detainees before military commissions that do not meet international standards of justice, Human Rights Watch said.  
 
Earlier this week, the Bush administration announced the release of several European detainees at Guantanamo, as well as the charges against two of six detainees slated for trial before military commissions. But roughly 650 detainees, including a handful of children, continue to be held in a legal limbo as enemy combatants in an ill-defined war on terrorism. The U.S. government's proposed military commissions fail to provide basic fair-trial guarantees, including the right to appeal to a civilian court.  
 
Human Rights Watch called on Chancellor Schröder to urge President Bush to stop attacking the International Criminal Court (ICC). The German chancellor should stress that the United States has no right to object to other states giving the ICC oversight of crimes committed on their own territory.  
 
"Chancellor Schröder should impress on President Bush the damage that issues like Guantanamo and hostility to the ICC are doing to United States' claims to leadership on human rights," said Roth.