Scotland launch of Amnesty International Report 2012

  • Strong Arms treaty needed as UN Security Council increasingly looks unfit for purpose
  • China's continuing crackdown on political activists and human rights defenders

Amnesty International Scotland today (Thursday 24 May) launched the organisation's 50th global human rights report , examining the state of human rights in 155 countries and territories around the world over the past year.

The report documents specific restrictions on free speech in at least 93 countries as well as cases of people tortured or otherwise ill-treated in at least 101 countries – in many cases for taking part in demonstrations.

Shabnum Mustapha, Programme Director for Amnesty International in Scotland, said:

"The courage shown by protesters in the past 12 months has been matched by a complete lack of leadership that makes the UN Security Council seem tired, out of step and increasingly unfit for purpose. When we look at its reaction - or lack of - to what is happening to the people of Syria, it is clear that it has completely failed in its remit."

"The vocal and enthusiastic support for the protest movements shown by many governments in the early months of last year, has not translated into action. Unfortunately, it has become all too clear that opportunistic alliances and financial interests have trumped human rights. The language of human rights is adopted when it serves political or corporate agendas and shelved when inconvenient or proving to be a barrier to profit.

"In July, the UN meets to negotiate an Arms Treaty. This will be an acid test for politicians to place rights over self-interest and profit. Without a strong treaty - one that is comprehensive, regulated and places human rights at its very core - the UN Security Council’s guardianship of global peace and security seems doomed to failure."

Joining Amnesty for the launch was Mounir Atassi, a Dundee-based Syrian human rights activist who spoke about the human rights situation unfolding in his country.

Echoing Amnesty's condemnation of the international community's reaction to the brutal crackdown by the Syrian regime, Mounir Atassi said:

"The way in which the Syrian regime is dealing with the plan formulated by Kofi Annan is now part of the problem, not a solution to the ongoing brutality against the Syrian people. The international community needs to be aware that the agreement reached with the Assad government is a ploy to buy time. We have counted over 400 violations against the plan since it was agreed - and the killing continues.

"The international community needs to act now to stop the brutality, not continue to shield the Syrian regime against accountability - a complete betrayal of the Syrian people."

Other global developments highlighted in Amnesty’s report include China’s brutal crackdown on political activists, human rights defenders and online activists – the harshest since the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations. China was increasingly successful in using its economic strength, to leverage silence amongst those wanting to enter into trade agreements with the world’s second largest economy - when it came to human rights.

  • Find out more and read our 2012 report /li>

Trends in 2012

  • Worsening discrimination in Africa over people’s sexual orientation or gender identity; increased xenophobic rhetoric from some European politicians; increased vulnerability to terrorist acts in Africa by Islamist armed groups; and abuses against Indigenous communities in the Americas as drives to exploit resources intensified.
  • Progress included the 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 Hadić, to face trial for crimes committed in the 1990s wars in former Yugoslavia.

Other global developments highlighted in Amnesty International Report 2012:

  • There was no improvement in North Korea’s horrific human rights situation.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, uprisings resonated strongly with people – but excessive force was used against protesters in countries from Angola to Senegal to Uganda.
  • Social protest gathered strength in the Americas, frequently bringing people into confrontation with powerful economic and political interests. Activists were threatened and killed, including in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.
  • In Russia, civic activism grew and the country saw its largest demonstrations since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but opposition voices were abused and systematically undermined.
  • There was no sign of significant change in countries such as Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. This year’s Eurovision Song Contest host, Azerbaijan, suppressed freedom of expression and sixteen prisoners of conscience are still behind bars for raising their voices in 2011.
  • Violence followed South Sudan’s vote for independence but the UN Security Council – along with the African Union’s Peace and Security Council – again failed to condemn abuses including indiscriminate bombardments by the Sudanese Armed Forces, or the Sudanese government’s closure of affected states to humanitarian organizations.
  • In the Middle East and North Africa, as the uprisings occupied world attention, other deep-seated problems festered. Iran’s government was increasingly isolated, tolerated no dissent, and used the death penalty with an enthusiasm only outstripped by China, while Saudi Arabia cracked down on protestors.
  • Israel maintained its blockade of Gaza, prolonging the humanitarian crisis, and continued to expand illegal settlements in the West Bank. Palestinian political organisations Fatah and Hamas targeted each other’s supporters; Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups mounted tit-for-tat attacks in Gaza.
  • Burma's government took a pivotal decision to free more than 300 political prisoners and allow Aung San Suu Kyi to contest elections. An escalation of conflict-related human rights violations in ethnic minority areas, as well as continuing harassment and detention of activists, however, suggested limits to the reform.

Notes

Mounir Atassi is a Syrian civil right activist from Homs, who is currently living in Scotland and working as an academic in the University of Dundee. Mounir is a leading member of the Syrian Non-Violence Movement, a non-governmental organisation, and has been involved in many civil resistance and non-violent campaigns during the current uprising in Syria, including: Save Our Children's rights, Pray for Syria, Dignity Disobedience, Scotland4Syria and the Freedom Days campaign.

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