The world “reached a nadir” for human rights in the past year and international systems are no longer adequate to cope, according to an Amnesty International report.
Amnesty identified 10 key examples of countries where there have been attacks on individual human rights – and the institutions designed to protect them – on a national scale (see gallery below).
With its bitter and ongoing civil war, Syria unsurprisingly features prominently in the report on “The State of the World’s Human Rights 2015/16”.
But from Israel and Egypt to Russia and Hungary, other countries were included on the list despite being at peace – and, like the latter, in the EU.
In his foreword to the report, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said its pages “cannot convey the full human misery of the topical crisis of this last year”.
“In such a situation, protecting and strengthening systems of human rights and civilian protection cannot be seen as optional,” he said. “It is literally a matter of life and death.”
Attacks on human rights around the world
Attacks on human rights around the world
Escalating crackdown against human rights activists including mass arrests of lawyers and a series of sweeping laws in the name of ‘national security’.Picture: A protest in Hong Kong last July following the arrest of at least 50 Chinese human rights lawyers and activists
The arrest of thousands, including peaceful critics, in a ruthless crackdown in the name of national security, the prolonged detention of hundreds without charge or trial and the sentencing of hundreds of others to death.
Torture, enforced disappearances and the criminalisation of LGBTI people; and utter refusal to co-operate with the UN and regional human rights mechanisms on issues including freedom of expression, enforced disappearance and the death penalty.Picture: Gambia's President, Yahya Jammeh
Sealing off its borders to thousands of refugees in dire need; and obstructing collective regional attempts to help them.
Maintaining its military blockade of Gaza and therefore collective punishment of the 1.8 million inhabitants there, as well as failing, like Palestine, to comply with a UN call to conduct credible investigations into war crimes committed during the 2014 Gaza conflict.
Extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and discrimination against refugees in its counter-terrorism operations; and attempts to undermine the International Criminal Court and its ability to pursue justice.Picture: Policemen arrest people protesting the passing of a controversial counter-terrorism legislation
The severe human rights failings of its response to the horrific Peshawar school massacre including its relentless use of the death penalty; and its policy on international NGOs giving authorities the power to monitor them and close them down if they are considered to be “against the interests” of the country.
Repressive use of vague national security and anti-extremism legislation and its concerted attempts to silence civil society in the country; its shameful refusal to acknowledge civilian killings in Syria and its callous moves to block Security Council action on Syria.
9/10 Saudi Arabia
Brutally cracking down on those who dared to advocate reform or criticise the authorities; and committing war crimes in the bombing campaign it has led in Yemen (pictured) while obstructing the establishment of a UN-led inquiry into violations by all sides in the conflict.
Killing thousands of civilians in direct and indiscriminate attacks with barrel bombs and other weaponry and through acts of torture in detention; and enforcing lengthy sieges of civilian areas, blocking international aid from reaching starving civilians.Source: Amnesty International
In its global release for the report, Amnesty said international protections for human rights were "unravelling".
Salil Shetty, the secretary-general of Amnesty International, said "more than 70 years of hard work and human progress lies at risk".
“The world today is facing many challenges which, at their source, have been created or prolonged by governments who have played politics with people’s lives. Refugees are suffering in their millions as conflicts proliferate, and armed groups deliberately attack civilians and commit other grave abuses,” he said.
“It is within world leaders’ power to prevent these crises from spiralling 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. Human rights are a necessity, not an accessory; and the stakes for humankind have never been higher.”
Here is a summary of what the report found for each of the 10 countries identified in the gallery above:
“A massive nationwide crackdown against human rights lawyers; new laws with a national security focus that present grave dangers to human rights; authorities stepped up their controls over the internet, mass media and academia; Televised “confessions” of critics detained for investigation multiplied; Freedom of religion continued to be systematically stifled; The government maintained extensive controls over Tibetan Buddhist monasteries.”
“Executions were carried out following grossly unfair trials; Detainees faced torture and other illtreatment; Women and members of religious minorities were subject to discrimination and inadequately protected against violence; The authorities arbitrarily restricted the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, enacted a draconian new antiterrorism law, and arrested and imprisoned government critics and political opposition leaders and activists, subjecting some to enforced disappearance.”
“Constructed fences along its southern borders, criminalized irregular entry to its territory and expedited the return of asylum-seekers and refugees to Serbia, effectively transforming Hungary into a refugee protection-free zone. Roma continued to be at risk of forced eviction and inadequately protected against hate crimes.”
“Unlawful killings of Palestinian civilians, including children, and thousands of Palestinians detained who protested against or otherwise opposed Israel’s continuing military occupation, holding hundreds in administrative detention; Torture and other ill-treatment remained rife and were committed with impunity; Israeli settlers in the West Bank attacked Palestinians and their property with virtual impunity.”
“The December 2014 attempted coup led to arrests and further human rights violations. The authorities continued to repress dissent and display a lack of willingness to cooperate with the UN and regional human rights mechanisms or comply with their recommendations.”
“Continued attacks in Kenya carried out by al-Shabaab, the Somali-based armed group, led Kenya to step up its counter-terrorism operations, which resulted in an increase of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations. Human rights organizations reporting on violations by security agencies during these operations were increasingly harassed. Some civil society organizations were shut down or threatened with closure through judicial or administrative measures.”
“Executions resumed; newly established military courts were authorized to try all those accused of terrorism-related offences, including civilians; Religious minorities continued to face discrimination, persecution and targeted attacks; Human rights activists experienced harassment and abuse.”
“Freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly remained severely restricted; the authorities dominated the print and broadcast media, and further extended their control over the internet; growing numbers of individuals were arrested and criminally charged for criticizing state policy and publicly displaying or possessing materials deemed extremist or otherwise unlawful under vague national security legislation; refugees faced numerous obstacles in accessing international protection; serious human rights violations continued in the North Caucasus, and human rights defenders reporting from the region faced harassment.”
“The government continued to severely restrict freedoms of expression, association and assembly. The authorities arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned human rights defenders and government critics, often after unfair trials; torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained common; women faced discrimination in law and in practice and were inadequately protected against sexual and other violence; the authorities used the death penalty extensively and carried out more than 150 executions.”
“Government forces and non-state armed groups committed war crimes, other violations of international humanitarian law and gross human rights abuses with impunity in the internal armed conflict.”