Amnesty International report 2012

Today, we launched our annual report on the state of the world’s human rights, and it’s been go go go all day. Salil Shetty, our Secretary General, was on 5live morning reports before most of us were up at 5 am, then on BBC news channel for breakfast and on Sky News’ Adam Boulton show at lunch time. We’ve also had our own UK Director out doing the interview circuit and you can read a comment piece from Kate Allen on Guardian Law, here.

The picture is mixed, with the bravery of protesters being met again and again by violent repression. At least 60 per cent of human rights violations documented by Amnesty International over the last year have involved small arms and light weapons.

Whilst there is never a simple answer to the myriad of problems in the world, this year  it seems there is more of an obvious one stop solution than ever before with the call for an Arms Trade Treaty.

If governments, the UK among them, succeed in securing a strong, binding global arms trade treaty at United Nations discussions in July it  could stem the flow of arms to human rights abusing governments and that could have a huge impact on the findings of future reports.

There is much to mull over in the hefty 400-page dossier – for a good over view, see this piece in the Telegraph, or this from the Guardian. Yet it is not all bad news, with a global trend towards abolition of the death penalty; the erosion of impunity for past abuses in the Americas; and landmark steps towards justice in Europe with the arrests of General Ratko Mladić and Croatian Serb Goran Hadžić, to face trial for crimes committed in the 1990s wars in former Yugoslavia.

It’s hard to focus on just a few examples, when there is so much dense information, which journalists and human rights activists will call upon through the course of the coming year.

As Kate Allen said in the Guardian, when this report takes its place in the archive of annual reports charting a chronology of problems and progress over the decades, “We shall see whether the 2012 report will be the one that came just months before the world secured a binding, bulletproof arms trade treaty in the negotiations due to take place in July, or whether the world wasted an extraordinary opportunity to advance human rights." That we shall.

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