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Amnesty Says 'Hate Rhetoric' Makes World Divisive, More Dangerous


The treatment of migrants was one of the issues touched upon in a new Amnesty International report on human rights around the world. (file photo)

The treatment of migrants was one of the issues touched upon in a new Amnesty International report on human rights around the world. (file photo)

Amnesty International says human rights around the world are under threat because of politicians who are using "toxic, dehumanizing" rhetoric against ethnic or religious minorities in order to strengthen their political powers.

In the watchdog's annual report, titled The State Of The World's Human Rights, Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty on February 22 said "divisive fear-mongering has become a dangerous force in world affairs" -- creating a more divisive, more dangerous world.

"The global trend of angrier and more divisive politics was exemplified by [U.S. President] Donald Trump's poisonous campaign rhetoric, but political leaders in various parts of the world also wagered their future power on narratives of fear, blame, and division," Shetty said.

Shetty named Trump, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte among an increasing number of politicians who call themselves "anti-establishment" and wield "a toxic agenda that hounds, scapegoats, and dehumanizes entire groups of people."

Amnesty's report says "us versus them" political rhetoric in the United States and Europe has been fueled by the global refugee crisis.

It says that, internationally, "hate rhetoric" has reached its worst level in politics since the 1930s and is "fueling a global pushback against human rights" which leaves a "global response to mass atrocities perilously weak."

The report predicts that 2017 will see "ongoing crises exacerbated by a debilitating absence of human rights leadership on a chaotic world stage."

Amnesty International's Secretary-General Salil Shetty (file photo)

Amnesty International's Secretary-General Salil Shetty (file photo)

Shetty said "2017 needs human rights heroes" to combat hateful political rhetoric that has unleashed "the dark side of human nature" and increasingly impacts government policies.

"In 2016, governments turned a blind eye to war crimes, pushed through deals that undermine the right to claim asylum, passed laws that violate free expression…justified torture and mass surveillance, and extended draconian police powers," he said.

Amnesty's report includes a survey of 159 countries and territories in an exercise to show how people have been suffering from conflict, displacement, discrimination, or repression.

Here is what the Amnesty International's latest report had to say about the human rights situation in RFE/RL broadcast countries.

Iran

Amnesty says Iranian authorities heavily suppressed the rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and religious belief.

It says peaceful critics of the government were arrested and imprisoned after "grossly unfair trials before Revolutionary Courts."

It says torture and other ill-treatment of detainees was widespread and committed with impunity by Iranian authorities.

The death penalty was used extensively by authorities with hundreds of executions carried out -- some in public.

The rights group notes that "floggings, amputations, and other cruel punishments" continue to be used in Iran.

It says religious and ethnic minorities faced discrimination and persecution while women and girls faced "pervasive violence and discrimination."

Russia

Amnesty International says Russian President Vladimir Putin continued to "surf the wave of popularity generated by Russia's excursions in Ukraine" and its "resurgent" international influence.

Meanwhile, the rights group says, Putin continued to undermine civil society within Russia.

The Amnesty report says restrictions on freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly increased in Russia during 2016.

Prosecutions of antigovernment protesters raised concerns about fair trial standards.

Individuals were charged under antiextremism legislation for criticizing state policy and publicly displaying or possessing alleged extremist materials.

Also noted was the initiation of the first criminal prosecution of a nongovernmental organization for failure to comply with Russia's "foreign agents" law.

NGOs can be declared "foreign agents" by Russia's Justice Ministry, after a court's approval, if they are deemed by the ministry to be engaged in "political activity" and have received some funding from abroad.

People gather near a destroyed building said to be a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) supported hospital in Marat al Numan, Idlib, Syria, in February 16.

People gather near a destroyed building said to be a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) supported hospital in Marat al Numan, Idlib, Syria, in February 16.

The report notes international criticism over allegations of war crimes by Russian forces in Syria -- including the alleged intentional bombing of hospitals by Russian warplanes.

It says serious human rights violations continued to be reported in connection with security operations in the North Caucasus.

That includes critics of authorities in Chechnya facing physical attacks by nonstate actors, as well as prosecution by authorities. A nonstate actor is an individual or organization that has significant political influence but is not allied to any particular country or state.

Human rights activists in the North Caucasus were harassed by non-state actors.

The International Criminal Court continued an investigation of crimes allegedly committed by Russian forces in eastern Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula.

Ukraine

Amnesty International notes that sporadic low-scale fighting continued in eastern Ukraine during 2016, and that both sides violated an internationally brokered cease-fire deal.

It says impunity continued for both Ukrainian government troops and pro-Russia separatist fighters who have violated international humanitarian law by committing war crimes like torture.

It says government forces and separatists unlawfully detained suspected supporters of the other side and used them in prisoner exchanges.

Ukrainian war prisoners are guarded by Luhansk separatists during a prisoner exchange in February 2016.

Ukrainian war prisoners are guarded by Luhansk separatists during a prisoner exchange in February 2016.

Independent media and activists were blocked from working freely in separatist controlled parts of eastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Amnesty says media seen by authorities in Kyiv as pro-Russian faced harassment in government-controlled areas.

In Russian-annexed Crimea, the report says Russian-installed authorities continued their campaign to eliminate pro-Ukrainian dissent.

It said those authorities increasingly used Russian antiextremism and antiterrorism laws to prosecute dozens of people seen as being opposed to Moscow's annexation of the region.

Belarus

Amnesty says the Belarusian government kept severe restrictions in place against the rights to freedom of expression, of association, and peaceful assembly.

It notes that the government in Minsk continued to refuse to cooperation with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Belarus during 2016.

The report says at least four people were executed and four sentenced to death in Belarus.

Central Asia

Amnesty says that repression of dissent, critical opinions, and political opposition could be described as the norm across most Central Asian republics.

It says those problems remain serious in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and were "not noticeably worse" in 2016 than in previous years.

It says "torture in detention centers and prisons continued to be pervasive" in Uzbekistan, where forced labor was also widely used.

Although Turkmenistan launched a so-called National Human Rights Action Plan in April, 2016, Amnesty says there was no improvement in the rights situation, and the country remained closed to independent human rights monitors.

In Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, the rights group reported a "marked deterioration."

It notes that Kazakhstan used criminal laws against leaders of nongovernment groups for the first time in 2016.

Kazakh riot police officers detain a demonstrator during a protest against land reforms in May 2016.

Kazakh riot police officers detain a demonstrator during a protest against land reforms in May 2016.

The report also highlights the arrests of hundreds of people who took part in protests against a new land code.

Amnesty says Tajikistan's "crackdown in the wake of the targeting of the banned opposition Islamic Renaissance party of Tajikistan" was "significant."

The report also notes a five-year-decree that gives Tajikistan's government the right to "regulate and control" all television and radio broadcasts through the State Broadcasting Committee.

In Kyrgyzstan, Amnesty's report says "the perpetrators of torture and of violence against women enjoyed impunity" during 2016.

It also says Kyrgyz authorities "continued to make no genuine effort to effectively investigate the June 2010 violence in Osh and Jalal-Abad."

Moldova

Amnesty says police in Moldova occasionally used unnecessary or excessive force against street protesters during the past year.

It says high profile criminal cases have raised concerns about unfair trials, including selective justice.

The report notes that there was no progress on addressing structural causes of impunity for torture and other ill-treatment.

It also points to laws that allow forced detention and nonconsensual treatment to people with disabilities in psychiatric facilities -- including forced abortions.

Armenia

Amnesty says police used "excessive force" to suppress largely peaceful demonstrations in Yerevan in July -- with hundreds of people arbitrarily arrested.

It documented many cases where Armenians complained that they were injured, beaten, or ill-treated while in police custody.

Torture and other ill-treatment by police and in detention facilities continued to be widely reported.​

Azerbaijan

Amnesty International described Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev as a "long-established" strongman who strengthened his grip on power through a constitutional amendment extending presidential terms.

The report says Azerbaijan continued to repress opposition activists, human rights groups, and independent media.

Although some political prisoners in Azerbaijan were released in 2016, Amnesty notes that at least 14 remained in prison at the end of 2016.

Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative journalist with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, was released from prison in 2016 after serving 17 months for financial-crimes charges that she and supporters say were government retaliation for her extensive reporting on alleged corruption involving Azerbaijan's president and his relatives.

Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative journalist with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, was released from prison in 2016 after serving 17 months for financial-crimes charges that she and supporters say were government retaliation for her extensive reporting on alleged corruption involving Azerbaijan's president and his relatives.

It says most human rights organizations in Azerbaijan that previously were shut down were unable to resume their work.

Amnesty notes that reprisals against independent journalists and activists continued -- and human rights monitors were blocked from entering the country.

Torture and other ill-treatment was widely reported along with arbitrary arrests of government critics.

Some released political prisoners and journalists were banned from traveling abroad and most were prevented from continuing their work.

Georgia

Amnesty says concerns remain about the lack of judicial independence and political interference in the courts after a series of rulings favored the Georgian government in high-profile cases.

New cases of torture and other ill-treatment by police were reported.

The economic and social rights of local residents were negatively impacted by continued border fencing along Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Afghanistan

According to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations and abuses resulted from Afghanistan's intensifying conflict with the Taliban, so-called Islamic State (IS) fighters, and other extremists.

Thousands of civilians were killed, displaced or injured in the violence.

Armed militants were responsible for the majority of civilian casualties, but pro-government forces also killed and injured civilians.

Amnesty says insecurity restricted access to education, health care, and other services for many Afghans.

Violence continued against women and girls -- with a reported increase in armed groups publicly executing and lashing women.

The report says human rights defenders and journalists continued to be threatened by state and nonstate actors.

Pakistan

Amnesty says that. despite a new law in Punjab to protect women from violence, so-called "honor" killings continue in Pakistan.

Its latest rights report says militant extremists caused hundreds of casualties in 2016 by intentionally targeting civilians, including government employees.

Meanwhile, in Karachi, Amnesty says paramilitary Rangers violated human rights with almost total impunity.

It said executions that have continued in Pakistan often were carried out after "unfair trials."

It also says rights activists and journalists continued to face threats and abuse from both Pakistani security forces and militant groups.

The report charges that religious minorities faced discrimination from state and nonstate actors in Pakistan.

It says other minorities faced discriminatory violations of their economic and social rights.

For poor women and rural residents, Amnesty says access to quality health care remained limited.

Bosnia-Herzegovina

Despite the passage of new antidiscrimination laws, Amnesty's latest rights report says, vulnerable minorities faced widespread discrimination in Bosnia-Herzegovina during 2016.

Attacks and threats against journalists and media freedom also continued.

Access to justice and reparations for civilian victims of the 1992-1995 war remained limited.

Macedonia

Amnesty International says prosecutions after revelations in 2015 about high-level corruption were slowed by political infighting while witness protection was limited.

It says Roma faced discrimination that limited their basic rights and access to services.

Refugees and migrants faced detention in poor facilities within Macedonia or were routinely pushed back at the border with Greece, the report said.

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