Commonwealth urges war on terrorism to respect international laws on human rights

Commonwealth leaders cautioned in a summit declaration that anti-terrorism measures must conform to international accords guaranteeing human rights.

The 53 heads of government attending the three-day summit agreed to a final statement Sunday promoting "dialogue, tolerance and understanding among civilizations" as a key anti-terrorism tool.

"States must ensure that measures taken to combat terrorism comply with their obligations under international law, in particular human rights law, refugee law and international humanitarian law," the 103-point final declaration said.

Maltese Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi told reporters that no nation's policies or measures were singled out in the summit's discussion on how to combat terrorism.

Tough interrogations and lengthy detention of terrorism suspects, often in isolated locations, have prompted human rights advocates to criticize key approaches in the anti-terrorism strategy of the U.S. administration.

The Commonwealth leaders condemned terrorism in all its forms, and stressed that "targets and deliberate killing of civilians through acts of terrorism cannot be justified or legitimized by any cause or grievance." Counterterrorism efforts must "also take into account the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism," their declaration said.

The Commonwealth has no legal powers to enforce any of its positions, but officials expressed hope that the consensus of so many leaders from around the world _ accounting for roughly a third of the globe's population _ will carry some moral weight.

Most of the meeting's discussions were dominated by concerns that many of the Commonwealth's members, including African nations and Caribbean and Pacific island countries largely dependent on agriculture, would not get a fair deal in next month's World Trade Organization talks in Hong Kong.

Commonwealth leaders issued a separate declaration Saturday night to pressure the European Union to greatly reduce farm subsidies as a way to level the playing field for poorer countries in world markets.

Europe's policies of generously subsidizing its farmers have been a major hurdle in the talks aimed at opening markets to producers from poorer countries.

At a news conference, Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo denounced as "grossly unfair" an EU decision to set aside some Ђ6 billion (about US$7.7 billion) for European producers and processors and only Ђ40 million (US$47 million) for Caribbean, Pacific and African sugar producers.

Jagdeo said he lobbied British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, to press for a fairer deal from the European Union for Caribbean countries. "He's going to try his best. He's not making any promises," Jagdeo said about Blair's response.

Blair said failure to achieve significant progress in the WTO negotiations would be disastrous.

Commonwealth officials said there were still plans to hold the next biennial summit in Uganda in 2007 despite concerns by Australia, New Zealand and others about the arrest of the main Ugandan opposition figure after his return from exile.

"I don't pretend to know all the circumstances, but on the face of it you don't normally have opposition leaders arrested in normal democracies," Australia's Prime Minister John Howard told reporters.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni dismissed criticism that the terrorism and treason charges lodged against Kizza Besigye smacked of human rights violations, and said the case was a matter for the courts, AP reported. V.A.

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