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RIGHTS: ‘G20 Must Lead on Justice’

Sanjay Suri

LONDON, May 26 2010 (IPS) - Amnesty International is calling on the G20 to lead the world out of a crisis in justice, after the band of major industrialised and emerging nations has led a fair bit of the world out of economic recession, to some extent.

“We have made a special claim to the G20 countries because they themselves have staked a claim to global leadership,” Amnesty International interim secretary-general Claudio Cordone told IPS at the launch of the human rights group’s annual report. “If you really want to be global leaders, you should take the lead also on issues of justice.”

It’s a timely call, ahead of the G20 summit due in Toronto Jun. 26-27. And along the way, Amnesty is looking to raise the temperature at the International Criminal Court (ICC) meeting set to begin May 31 in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

The human rights organisation is demanding that the G20 put their own house in order first to enable the group to then offer leadership on justice. Seven of the G20 countries, Cordone pointed out, have not signed up to the ICC (specifically, the U.S. Russia, China, India, Indonesia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia).

Amnesty says signing up to the ICC is an important marker for closing the justice gap. And many countries must also close the gap between what they see as justice abroad and what they practise as justice at home.

“Unfortunately when it comes to international relations, even governments that are open at home and have relatively good justice systems may still apply double standards,” said Cordone. “As with the United States, there is no direct link between domestic policies and international relations.”


But the Amnesty appeal goes out to countries beyond the G20. At the ICC meeting it plans to lobby African countries strongly. “We will appeal to the African states who have not been cooperating in terms of the arrest of President (Omar Hassan) Bashir of Sudan to do so — it is their legal obligation. But we will also appeal to the countries who have not yet signed up to the ICC to do so,” he said.

Amnesty International, Cordone said, is putting faith in fellow campaigners, and in “people within governments who are genuinely keen that this justice gap is closed.”

The closing of the gap is the thrust of the Amnesty International report this year, which says “powerful governments are blocking advances in international justice by standing above the law on human rights, shielding allies from criticism and acting only when politically convenient.”

The African Union’s failure to cooperate with the ICC was paralleled by the U.N. Human Rights Council’s “paralysis over Sri Lanka,” the report says, “despite serious abuses including possible war crimes carried out by both government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.”

Meanwhile, “recommendations of the Human Rights Council’s Goldstone report calling for accountability for the conflict in Gaza still need to be heeded by Israel and Hamas,” it adds.

The justice gap has “sustained a pernicious web of repression,” the report says. “Amnesty International’s research records torture or other ill-treatment in at least 111 countries, unfair trials in at least 55 countries, restrictions on free speech in at least 96 countries and prisoners of conscience imprisoned in at least 48 countries.”

The report highlights the following:

– In the Middle East and North Africa, there were patterns of governmental intolerance of criticism in Saudi Arabia, Syria and Tunisia, and mounting repression in Iran.

– In Asia, the Chinese government increased pressure on challenges to its authority, detaining and harassing human rights defenders, while thousands fled severe repression and economic hardship in North Korea and Myanmar (Burma).

– Space for independent voices and civil society shrank in parts of Europe and Central Asia, and there were unfair restrictions on freedom of expression in Russia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Uzbekistan.

– The Americas were plagued by hundreds of unlawful killings by security forces, in countries like Brazil, Jamaica, Colombia and Mexico, while impunity for U.S. violations related to counter-terrorism persisted.

– Governments in Africa such as Guinea and Madagascar met dissent with excessive use of force and unlawful killings, while Ethiopia and Uganda among others repressed criticism.

– Armed groups and government forces breached international law in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka and Yemen.

– In the conflict in Gaza and southern Israel, Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups unlawfully killed and injured civilians.

– Thousands of civilians suffered abuses in escalating violence by the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, or bore the brunt of the conflicts in Iraq and Somalia.

– Women and girls suffered rape and other violence carried out by government forces and armed groups in most conflicts.

 
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