Newsbrief, TerraViva United Nations

Human Rights Under Attack Than Ever Before, Says Amnesty

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 24 2016 (IPS) - Human rights are not only under threat, but so are laws and system that protect them, warned Amnesty International (AI) during the launch of its annual report.

“Millions of people are suffering enormously at the hands of states and armed groups, while governments are shamelessly painting the protection of human rights as a threat to security, law and order or national ‘values’,” said AI’s Secretary-General Salil Shetty.

In its 2015-2016 report, AI has documented cases of human rights and international law violations around the world.

The London-based organization found that 122 or more countries have tortured or ill-treated civilians while governments and armed groups perpetrated war crimes in at least 19 countries.

In Nigeria, the ongoing conflict has seen mass violations of humanitarian and human rights law by both the country’s military and the rebel group Boko Haram.

While the world’s deadliest terrorist group continues to conduct executions and abductions in the Northeastern region of the country, the Nigerian military has responded unlawfully by killing, starving, and torturing over 8,200 people. This reflects a weakness in global institutional responses to crises, AI said.

Syria, where more than half of the population have fled or are internally displaced, is soon approaching its fifth year of conflict. However, international response to the crisis and refugee arrivals continues to be insufficient and ineffective.

Increased bombardments of Syria have undermined human rights and exacerbated the refugee crisis. Recent bombings in Aleppo and Northern Aleppo have newly displaced 58,000 civilians.

Meanwhile, upon signing a European Union (EU) Joint Action Plan on migration, Turkey implemented stringent border controls, denied access to asylum and conducted push-backs at the expense of the human rights of refugees. The 58,000 newly displaced Syrians are currently stranded on the border of Turkey.

According to AI, over 30 countries have illegally forced refugees to return to countries where they would be in danger.

In the face of evolving challenges, governments have also violated the rights of its own citizens in the name of national security. AI’s Europe and Central Asia Director John Dalhuisen noted that France’s response following the Paris attacks in November were “repressive counter-terrorism and intrusive surveillance methods.”

Gaps in the human rights regime have also surfaced within the UN, AI noted.

“The UN was set up to ‘save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’ and to ‘reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights’ but it is more vulnerable than it ever has been in the face of enormous challenges,” Shetty remarked.

Many governments have hindered UN efforts to prevent or act upon human rights violations. AI cited the Syrian conflict as an example of the “catastrophic human consequences of a systemic failure of the UN to fulfill its vital role.”

Though the organization is in desperate need of reinvigoration, a new UN Secretary-General, who will be elected later this year and assume the position by January 2017, may be a key opportunity for reform, AI said.

“It is within world leaders’ power to prevent these crises from spiraling further out of control. Governments must halt their assault on our rights and strengthen the defences the world has put in place to protect them,” Shetty declared.

“Human rights are a necessity, not an accessory; and the stakes for humankind have never been higher,” he concluded.


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