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The state of the world’s human rights in 2017

You said no to hate. You said no to fear. You said no to a world without human rights.

While world leaders pushed hate, fought against rights, ignored horrific crimes against humanity, and let inequality and suffering go on, there was another side to human rights abuses in 2017. That is the story of people coming together to protest, to rise up and challenge those in power, remind them that they are powerful.

Documenting the abuses

Our review of 2017 in human rights abuses does not make for easy reading. We document torture, executions, genocides. The persecution of people for their religion, their political beliefs, or simply speaking freely. The upheaval of millions of people forced to flee their homes. Just some of the cruel actions of those in power.

It’s our job to document these abuses accurately. We publish our review of human rights abuses every year so that the authorities committing abuses may be held to account. We investigate and analyse human rights in 159 countries. It’s the most comprehensive analysis of the state of human rights today. Our publications are held up as evidence and used by those challenging power around the world.

We also publicise these abuses so that ordinary people like you may do what they can to help hold abusers to account.

World leaders abandon human rights

In 2017, the world witnessed a rollback of human rights. Signs of a regression were everywhere. Across the world governments continued to clampdown on the rights to protest, and women’s rights took a nosedive in the USA, Russia and Poland.

From Venezuela to Tunisia, there was mass social discontent, as people were denied access to their fundamental human rights to food, clean water, healthcare and shelter.

From the US to the European Union and Australia, leaders of wealthy countries continued to approach the global refugee crisis with outright callousness, regarding refugees not as human beings with rights but as problems to be deflected. 

And hate of certain groups in our societies, endorsed by governments, threatens to normalise discrimination against minority groups. Xenophobic slogans at a nationalist march in Poland and sweeping crackdowns on LGBTI communities from Chechnya to Egypt showed how discriminatory persecution is being given a green light by authorities.

Among a sea of stories that caused shock were the horrific reports of ethnic cleansing carried out by Myanmar’s military against its Rohingya population. The stories captured by our researchers were utterly heartbreaking. 

“Shafi, my two-year-old son, he was hit hard with a wooden stick. One hit, and he was dead … Three of my children were killed,” said one woman, whose money, possessions – and children - were taken by soldiers.

But with few leaders willing to stand up for human rights on a global stage, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed from Myanmar to Iraq have gone ignored, making the world a more dangerous place.

Worldwide crackdown on free speech

Last year saw a record numbers of individuals attacked for taking a stand against injustice. As a global organisation dedicated to fighting for human rights, we too came under attack. Our own staff in Turkey were arrested and jailed on entirely baseless charges. While İdil Eser, Director of Amnesty Turkey, has been released,  Taner Kılıç the chair of Amnesty Turkey, remains in prison.

Just imagine being a lawyer, journalist or activist, whose life is under threat for telling the truth.

"In 2018, we cannot take for granted that we will be free to gather together in protest or to criticize our governments. In fact, speaking out is becoming more dangerous."
Amnesty Secretary General Salil Shetty

That is exactly what is happening right now, as authorities aggressively pursue people who have stood up for human rights. These activists are being killed in staggering numbers, with more than 312 killings recorded in 2017, up from 281 the year before.

Despite the efforts of governments to shut down non-governmental organisations like Amnesty, undermine the media, take away people’s right to protest and jail campaigners, people refused to be silenced. And in this climate of fear and intimidation, it is all the more vital that we continue to speak out.

People power and resistence

People are angry, and rightly so, at the extraordinary anti-rights rhetoric being peddled by prominent leaders. It is no surprise therefore that one of the largest protests for human rights in history – the Women’s March – took place last year, and set the scene for the year to come. More than 600 Women’s Marches took place around the world, calling for equal rights for women around the world.

With each and every protest, people proved they are passionate about defending institutions that uphold human rights.

In Poland, serious threats to the independence of the judiciary brought incredible numbers of people onto the streets.

Globally, the #MeToo phenomenon and Latin America’s “Ni Una Menos” – denouncing femicide and violence against women and girls – showcased the massive pull of social movements.

Across the world activists scored important human rights victories, including lifting the total ban on abortion in Chile, achieving a step towards marriage equality in Taiwan and one by one, removing laws in Tunisia, Jordan and Lebanon that allowed rapists to escape justice.   

But the fight is not over. We’re making history, as people rise up and demand justice in greater numbers – and the onus is now on governments around the world to show that they are listening.

Join us now and make your voice heard

Let’s make that voice even louder in 2018.