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Scotland should lead the way in promoting human rights

Amnesty launches Annual Report of human rights worldwide

Torture in 111 countries, free speech curbs in 96, unfair trials in 55

The Scottish Government should make the protection of human rights a priority in all of its international relations ensuring that it is not complicit in promoting repression and injustice around the world, said Amnesty International today, launching its annual assessment of human rights worldwide.

Amnesty International Report 2010: State of the World’s Human Rights, is a 420-page report documenting abuses in 159 countries including those with which Scotland has official relations – either established as in the case of Malawi and India; or in development as is the case with Canada and the United States of America.

Amnesty International’s Programme Director in Scotland, John Watson, said:
“The Scottish Government incorporated into their China Plan an explicit commitment to raising human rights concerns in any meeting with Chinese officials, and to making public the details of these exchanges. This was a welcome and progressive step and we would like to see this extended to all States with which Scotland has any kind of formal relationship.

“We would also welcome scrutiny by other countries of our own human rights record. As we have recently witnessed here in Scotland with the ‘unlawful’ introduction of the Strathclyde Taser pilot, unless there is scrutiny of political decision-making and the activity of those in government, human rights can easily be eroded.

“All governments must ensure that no one is above the law, and that everyone has access to justice for all human rights violations.”

Amnesty is also calling on all governments to fully sign up to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and ensure that crimes under international law can be prosecuted anywhere in the world. It said that states claiming global leadership, including the G20, have a particular responsibility to set an example.

Amnesty International’s research records torture or other ill-treatment in at least 111 countries, unfair trials in at least 55 countries, restrictions on free speech in at least 96 countries and prisoners of conscience imprisoned in at least 48 countries.

Regarding the UK, Amnesty’s report is sharply critical of the UK’s continued reliance on “diplomatic assurances” in deportation cases where individuals were likely to be at risk of torture or other abuse if sent to countries like Algeria or Jordan. The UK is also  criticised for ignoring repeated calls during 2009 for an independent investigation into allegations that UK intelligence officials were complicit in torture and other human rights violations; last week’s announcement of a judge-led inquiry into the issue may finally be about to set this right.
Other findings included:

  • In the United States, at least 47 people died after being struck by police Tasers, bringing to more than 390 the number of such deaths since 2001. Fifteen year old Brett     Elder died in Bay City, Michigan, in March, after being shocked by officers responding to reports of unruly behaviour at a party.
  • In China, Human Rights Defenders including lawyers, journalists, environmental activists, and proponents of democractic reform, were arbitrarily detained, harassed, subjected to house arrest, held in incommunicado detention and imprisoned. Authorities tortured and ill – treated many of those in detention. Family members of HRDs, including Children's rights, continued to be targeted and were subjected to long – term house arrest and other restraints and harassment.
  • In Malawi, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were arrested on 28th December, two days after they had a traditional engagement ceremony (chinkhoswe) in Clantyre’s Chirimba township. They were charged with “unnatural offences” and “indecent practices between males” under sections 153 and 156 of the Penal Code. The two men were assaulted in police custody. Both were subject to forcible psychological assessment. Tiwonge Chimbalanga was also forced to undergo an anal examination in hospital to establish whether or not he had has sexual relations with men. Forced anal examination constitutes cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.
  • In Canada, the high level of violence experienced by Indigenous Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls has persisted. Despite a stated commitment to stopping the violence, the Canadian government took no steps towards establishing such a plan.

Find out more about the state of the world's human rights and read the full report

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