Torture, bad treatment and other war crimes are part of the abuses committed by governments against people.
Structures to safeguard human rights that the international community has built over the last 70 years are endangered by the unwillingness of governments to protect them, alerts Amnesty International (AI) in its annual report in London.
The humanitarian organization estimates that last year there were 122 countries that practiced torture or mistreatment, 29 countries obligated refugees to return to countries where they faced danger and 19 others committed war crimes against innocent people or had armed groups commit the abuses for them.
The report stresses that the “danger” is not only in the direct actions of States that undermine the rights of its citizens, but the lack of support for the institutions created to protect them.
Governments that want to circumvent international scrutiny are hindering the functioning of organizations like the United Nations and the International Criminal Court and regional mechanisms such as the Council of Europe and the American system of human rights, says AI.
“Human rights have suffered serious attacks in the last twelve months. From Venezuela to Egypt, from the Democratic Republic of Congo to China. Even countries that have traditionally defended human rights have been committing abuses,” said AI’s Secretary General, Salil Shetty.
The head of the organization said that “millions of people suffer terribly at the hands of states and armed groups while executives deem shamelessly the protection of human rights as a threat to security, public order or national values,” he lamented.
“It jeopardized our rights and the laws and the system that protects us. Over 70 years of hard work and progress on human rights are on thin ice,” said Shetty.
Meanwhile, the director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty, John Dalhuisen, criticized the performance of the Europ in the refugee crisis that erupted last year.
“Europe has been proud of being in defense of a sophisticated system that protects human rights. That’s still true, but there seem to be days when those rights are not guaranteed.
It’s possible that when, in the future, we look back, we see 2015 as a turning point from which that trend has accelerated,” said Dalhuisen.
The expert said that “perhaps with the exception of Germany,” European countries “have decided that the protection of its borders is more important than protecting people”.
The report also criticizes the exceptional measures against terrorism taken by France and the UK because of how they distance themselves from the European Court of Human Rights.
The humanitarian organization also emphasizes the “fall” that Turkey has suffered in recent months, in which it “has reached record levels of arrests of journalists” and threats to freedom of expression.
The war in Syria is one of the focal points of the report, which warns of the plight of thousands of people trying to cross the country’s borders to escape the bombings.
“Paralysis of the world leaders in the last year has a face, that of the 58,000 Syrians from Aleppo who recently reached the Turkish border,” said Tirana Hassan, director of the Crisis Response program of the humanitarian organization.
“With the fiercely closed borders in Turkey, which has been established as the new border guard of Europe, families are forced to try to enter through illegal routes,” described Hassan, who warned that some of these refugees trying to cross have been killed by Turkish police shootings.
A weak Secretary General
Secretary General of Amnesty International (AI), Salil Shetty, said in an interview that the person who takes the reins of the United Nations in January should be someone able to stand firm against major world powers.
“We want someone with extensive experience in the struggle for human rights; someone with the courage to stand up to the Member States when they want to commit human rights violations”, described Shetty, an Indian activist who runs AI since 2010.
“She, preferably, or he, must be someone who can stand up and say ‘no’. That’s very important,” Shetty said in London after presenting the annual report, which emphasizes that the UN and its offices in human rights protection resent the lack of support from governments.
For the head of the humanitarian organization, “the problem with the UN is that they are as strong or as weak as its members want it to be.”
In theory, the supranational organization was created “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights,” but is now “more vulnerable than ever,” says the document published by Amnesty International.
In regards to current Secretary General Ban Ki Mun, who will step down in the coming months, Shetty said he was forced to lead the organization during “one of the most difficult periods in the history of mankind, with difficult situations in the Middle East, such as the Arab spring “.
“I think it is hard for him to achieve a balance in this context,” said the head of Amnesty International, adding that “there are two global issues where he deserves credit: the sustainable development agenda for 2030 and the agreement on climate change. ”
One of the challenges facing the next leader of the United Nations shall be the conflict in Syria, where the role played by the international body has been conditioned by the “politics of the big players.”
“Syria has become a battleground in which Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as Russia and the West face each other, while civilians are trapped in the crossfire,” he explained.
The work of international organizations should be directed “first, to end the killing of civilians and, secondly, to allow humanitarian aid to reach more than 400,000 people who continue to live in conditions of siege,” said Shetty.
Addressing the European response to the crisis of refugees fleeing the conflict, the head of Amnesty International stressed that the Old Continent “has not done enough.”
“I think Germany has gone ahead. Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken a personal risk in this situation, but unfortunately for a continent that was founded on human rights as a fundamental value, its response has been inconsistent,” he said.
The activist noted that there has been an extensive campaign of “disinformation” among Europeans, which in his view do not understand that “the majority of Syrian refugees and the region are in neighboring countries and are not coming to Europe.”
“A million refugees is a large number by many measures, but it is not a number that Europe can not handle,” he said.
Shetty feels that the situation in the Mediterranean, where in recent months thousands of people have died trying to reach Europe, has been improved through “a better system of search and rescue.”
However, the head of AI stressed the need for continuous work to resolve the situation in the countries from which those refugees are fleeing, to avoid multiply deaths at sea next summer.
Unfortunately, Amnesty International, which suffers from some of the same problems it warns about, i.e. the involvement of politics in its reports, fell short in its assessment about the real causes behind the violations of human rights and the real causes of refugee crises, such as the ones on Yemen and Syria. The report does not point out who are the real culprits of the most egregious violations, and chooses to use generic language when talking about who are the responsible parties. This lack of precision renders AI’s report useless as it fails to exercise the pressure on the parties who commit the crimes, as it intended to do.
Additionally, by promoting programs such as the so-called ‘climate accord’ and the sustainable development agenda for 2030, Amnesty International misinforms the public about the real agenda behind those two initiatives. In sum, with its last report, AI makes a disservice to the people who trust its integrity, not only for omitting the obvious, but also for promoting and praising policies and initiatives that will help the commission of human rights violations, such as the UN’s sustainability policies and the climate change policies, both of which are supported by the same human rights violators who AI is supposedly condemning.
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