The United States is condoning torture and abuse in the name of the war on terror, setting up a latter-day Gulag and creating a new generation of the "disappeared", according to Amnesty International.
A report from the human rights group accuses governments from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe of systematic and often brutal erosion of civil rights.
But its most scathing criticism is directed at the US, for using the 11 September attacks as an excuse to ignore international law, and for creating a network of supplicant nations to "sub-contract" illegal detention and mistreatment.
Britain is also criticized for attempting to put its soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan beyond the reach of human rights laws and, on occasion, "blindly following the United States" down the path of abuse.
Amnesty criticizes British ministers who have tried to justify the use of evidence in courts obtained through mistreatment. The organization's secretary general, Irene Khan, said: "To argue that torture is warranted is to push us back to the Middle Ages."
The international community failed to answer calls for help when mass abuse was taking place, Amnesty says.
In the Sudanese region of Darfur, the United Nations stopped short of describing the violence against civilians as genocide. Amnesty says the UN was "held hostage" to Russian arms-trade interests and Chinese oil interests when it debated Sudan.
There had been a similar lack of action in other parts of Africa, including Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the international community seemingly impotent to act against human rights abuse.
Ms Khan said the rest of the world took its lead from the US. "Guantanamo has become the Gulag of our time, entrenching the practice of arbitrary and indefinite detention in violation of international law."
The US Defense Department responded to the report, saying that "the detention of enemy combatants is not criminal in nature, but to prevent
them from continuing to fight against the United States".
It said review tribunals "provided an appropriate venue for detainees to meaningfully challenge their enemy combatant designation", and added that abuse allegations were investigated.
© 2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.