Amnesty paints a grim picture of the world

US and India flagged for violations among others in advocacy group's latest report


Hammad Sarfraz April 10, 2021

KARACHI:

The situation of human rights has deteriorated globally, and the pandemic has accelerated the downward spiral, according to Amnesty International’s latest report.

In its scathing appraisal, the London-based advocacy group presents a dire picture of the world, where disdain for basic rights, it said, is growing. 

According to the document, human rights norms have been severely challenged by the Covid-19 pandemic, which enabled governments across the world to exercise greater control.

“The pandemic and some measures taken to tackle it, had a devastating effect on millions. It also aggravated existing patterns of abuses and inequalities,” cautioned Amnesty in its analysis titled ‘The State of the World’s Human Rights’.

The 407-page report on the nose-diving human rights standards, faults governments around the world for using the coronavirus crisis “as a smokescreen for power grabs, and a pretext to ignore human rights commitments.”

Close to half of the 149 countries analyzed by the group imposed states of emergency related to the pandemic -- particularly restricting rights such as freedom of movement, expression, and peaceful assembly.In the United States, a self-proclaimed defender of rights, serious deterioration of human rights was recorded during former president Donald Trump’s term.

I hope the trend can be reversed, but I am not optimistic

Dr. Gregory H. Stanton, Founder and President Genocide Watch

During this time, the group said, more than 1,000 people were killed by the police and the killings disproportionately affected African Americans.

India, which claims to be the largest democracy, too, received a slap on the wrist for its abuses in Kashmir. 

“A year after the government revoked the special status of Kashmir and split the state into two union territories, the clampdown on civil liberties and restrictions on communications services continued,” the report said.  

Dissent across India, the London-based rights organization said, was repressed through unlawful restrictions on peaceful protests and by silencing critics. 

During this period, Amnesty International itself became the target of the Narendra Modi government’s limited tolerance for human rights defenders. Last year, shortly after Amnesty released a damning report exposing targeted violence against Muslims, it was forced to halt operations in the country and its officials were haunted by a slew of legal inquiries.

In the United States, a self-proclaimed defender of rights, serious deterioration of human rights was recorded during Trump’s term

In its section covering India, the advocacy group condemned the government for its handling of the recent protest by farmers. It also criticized the Modi administration for the “widespread demonization” of those protesting against the “discriminatory nature of the CAA”. 

Amnesty blamed Indian authorities for turning a blind eye to violence and hate speech by the supporters of the controversial citizenship law that is aimed at marginalizing the country’s Muslim population. Additionally, the rights group recorded widespread impunity and lack of accountability for murders and attacks carried out by vigilante mobs and police officers against religious minorities in India.

The advocacy group reiterated that South Asia’s Muslims were particularly vulnerable. 

Responding to a question about a lack of coherent effort to prevent the persecution of ethnic and religious minorities, an Amnesty International spokesperson said: “While concerted global efforts are necessary, discrimination will not end until governments in the region get rid of discriminatory laws and take action to tackle the root causes of discrimination.”

India, which claims to be the largest democracy, too, received a slap on the wrist for its abuses in Kashmir

"The world needs to rethink a radically different future that is “more just, equitable and sustainable than the past,” the spokesperson said by email from Amnesty’s headquarters in London.  

In Pakistan, Amnesty said, the pandemic created new challenges for economic, social and cultural rights.  In its assessment, violence against women remained prevalent. “Prime Minister Khan made encouraging announcements to release women prisoners and criminalize torture but there was little progress in implementing these measures,” the report noted. 

The group also recorded curbs on media in the country.

According to Amnesty’s evaluation, several European countries fared poorly.  According to the group, law enforcement officials unlawfully used force along with other violations in Belgium, France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Poland, Romania, and Spain.

When asked to comment on the overall situation of human rights around the world and the possibility of it reversing to pre-pandemic times, Dr. Gregory H. Stanton, Founder and President Genocide Watch, a global organization that flags the intentional destruction of ethnic, racial and religious groups said: “I hope the trend can be reversed, but I am not optimistic.”

Pandemic inequality

In its report, the London-based advocacy group heaped scorn on wealthy nations for hoarding the Covid-19 vaccines.

“The richest countries have controlled the world's supply of vaccines, leaving countries with the fewest resources to face the worst health and human rights outcomes,” warned the rights organization.

Acknowledging the inequalities in the distribution of vaccines, Amnesty’s spokesperson said: “A few rich countries are racing ahead, while the rest of the world appears to be struggling to get off the starting line.” 

“Everyone deserves a fair shot at a vaccine - when it comes to our right to health, there’s no place for discrimination,” he said by email.

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