Amnesty International has taken aim at U.S. President Donald Trump and other world leaders the global watchdog says are abandoning human rights, accusing them of setting a “dangerous precedent” for other governments to follow.
In an annual report released on February 22, Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty warned that in the current political climate “it is abundantly clear that none of us can take our human rights for granted.”
“The specters of hatred and fear now loom large in world affairs, and we have few governments standing up for human rights in these disturbing times," Shetty said.
"Instead, leaders such as al-Sisi, Duterte, Maduro, Putin, Trump and Xi are callously undermining the rights of millions,” he said, referring to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump, and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“Last year our world was immersed in crises, with prominent leaders offering us a nightmarish vision of a society blinded by hatred and fear," Shetty said. "This emboldened those who promote bigotry, but it inspired far more people to campaign for a more hopeful future."
The report, titled The State Of The World's Human Rights, singled out Trump’s controversial travel ban to the United States that targets people from six predominantly Muslim countries.
The travel ban -- a revised version of a plan Trump introduced early in his term -- severely restricts the ability of people from Iran, Chad, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen to enter the United States.
“The transparently hateful move by the U.S. government in January  to ban entry to people from several Muslim-majority countries set the scene for a year in which leaders took the politics of hate to its most dangerous conclusion,” Shetty 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.
Signs of regression cited in the report also include restrictions on the right to protest in France and attempts to roll back women’s rights from the United States to Russia and Poland.
The annual report also says that the “feeble response” to crimes against humanity and war crimes from Burma to Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen underscored the lack of leadership on human rights.
“We saw the ultimate consequence of a society encouraged to hate, scapegoat, and fear minorities laid bare in the horrific military campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people in Myanmar,” Shetty said, using another name for Burma.
In addition to the negative effects, the report also says that regressive policies have “inspired” many people to join long-standing struggles, with human rights activists helping to secure many “victories” across the globe.
These include lifting the total abortion ban in Chile, achieving a step towards marriage equality in Taiwan, and securing a landmark victory against forced evictions in Abuja, Nigeria.
“Defenders of human rights around the world can look to the people of the United States to stand with them, even where the U.S. government has failed,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA.
“As President Trump takes actions that violate human rights at home and abroad, activists from across the country remind us that the fight for universal human rights has always been waged and won by people in their communities,” she added.
Amnesty also said that the rise of “the willingness of prominent leaders to tout fake news” has increased importance of the role of free speech in the battle for human rights.
Breakdown by Country or Region
The space for civil society continued to shrink across the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, and a discourse hostile to human rights remained prevalent, Amnesty says.
Human rights defenders, activists, the media and political opposition were frequently targeted by authorities. Across the region, the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly and the right to freedom of opinion and expression came under attack.
Public protests were met with a range of restrictive measures and excessive use of force by police. Governments continued to implement counterterrorism measures that disproportionately restricted people’s rights in the name of security, the report says.
According to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations and abuses resulted from the continuing conflict pitting the Taliban and other extremist groups, including Islamic State (IS), against the government.
Thousands of civilians were killed or injured in the violence, while the number of people internally displaced by conflict rose to more than 2 million. In addition, about 2.6 million Afghan refugees lived outside the country.
Violence continued against women and girls, by state and non-state actors, with a reported increase in armed groups publicly executing and lashing women.
Human rights defenders received threats from both state and non-state actors while journalists faced violence and censorship, Amnesty said.
Amnesty says there was “limited accountability” for the “unnecessary and excessive force" authorities used to suppress largely peaceful demonstrations in Yerevan the previous year.
The trials of opposition members accused of hostage-taking and other violent crimes violated the right to a fair trial, according to Amnesty, which also said that a human rights defender faced criminal charges.
The report accuses authorities of intensifying a crackdown on the freedom of expression, particularly following what it said were revelations of large-scale political corruption.
It noted that independent news outlets were blocked and their owners arrested and critics of the government continued to face politically motivated prosecution and imprisonment following unfair trials.
Members of the LGBT community were arbitrarily arrested and ill-treated, the report says, adding that suspicious deaths in custody were still not being investigated effectively.
Amnesty says the country’s security authorities violently cracked down on peaceful protests and returned several people who were seeking international protection to their home countries despite fears of torture and other ill-treatment.
It says heavy legislative restrictions on media, NGOs, political parties and public assembly remain in place.
It also notes that the government in Minsk continued to refuse to cooperation with the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Belarus.
The report says minorities continued to face widespread discrimination and threats and attacks against journalists and media freedom persisted.
Meanwhile, access to justice and reparations for civilian victims of war remained limited.
The country continues to be plagued by an impunity for human rights abuses committed by law enforcement officials, which underlines the need for an independent investigation mechanism, according to Amnesty.
A legal dispute over a pro-opposition TV channel has sparked concerns about judicial independence and media freedom, while the fencing of the de facto borders with the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia continue to have a negative impact on local residents’ economic and social rights.
The report says Iranian authorities heavily suppressed the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as freedom of religion and belief, and imprisoned scores of people who voiced dissent.
In the justice system, trials were systematically unfair and torture and other ill-treatment such as floggings and amputations were widespread and committed with “impunity.”
The authorities endorsed pervasive discrimination and violence based on gender, political opinion, religious belief, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
Hundreds of people were executed, some in public, and thousands remained on death row, including people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime occurred.
Amnesty says the government recalled a draft law on NGOs which contained undue restrictions for organizations that receive foreign funding.
The report is critical of an “unfair” trial where nine activists were convicted of attempting to organize mass disturbances in 2015 and given conditional prison sentences.
It also notes that an LGBTI Pride in the capital Chișinau was stopped by police due to alleged security concerns, while President Igor Dodon made homophobic statements and discrimination against Roma persisted.
Amnesty says a crackdown on freedom of expression intensified last year, with The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 being used to intimidate, harass and arbitrarily detain human rights defenders for online comments.
Enforced disappearances were widespread and impunity was prevalent.
It highlighted blasphemy-related violence that claimed the life of a student, triggering rare condemnation from the government. Meanwhile, large demonstrations in support of blasphemy laws, which were used to convict people expressing opinions online.
Journalists were attacked by unidentified assailants and minorities continued to face discrimination in the enjoyment of economic and social rights. Killings of women continued in so-called “honor” crimes, despite a 2016 law criminalizing the practice, and attempts to restrict child marriage were blocked by parliament.
Amnesty says that there were further restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly in Russia. Harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders and independent NGOs continued. Cultural rights were reduced, including through reprisals and self-censorship. Religious minorities continued to face harassment and persecution.
It said the right to a fair trial was frequently violated and that torture and other ill treatment persisted with the work of independent monitoring bodies for places of detention eroding further.
“Serious” human rights violations continued in the North Caucasus and migrants and refugees were denied protection of their rights. Some forms of domestic violence were decriminalized.
LGBT people continued to face discrimination and violence. For example, it says gay men in Chechnya were targeted through a coordinated campaign of abduction, torture, and killings by the Chechen authorities.
An investigation into the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) for its alleged secret prisons failed to make any progress, according to the report, while law enforcement officials continued to use torture and other ill-treatment.
The Ukrainian authorities increased pressure on their critics and independent NGOs, including journalists and anticorruption activists. They launched criminal investigations and passed laws aimed at restricting the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association, among other things, Amnesty said.
The de facto authorities in the separatist-controlled territories continued to unlawfully detain and imprison their critics. In Russian-controlled Crimea, critics of the authorities faced intimidation, harassment, and criminal prosecution.
The number of attacks on LGBT events rose across the country and the government failed to adequately address sexual and domestic violence.