Amnesty Says Governments Aid Rights Abuses

Source: NY Times

Powerful governments and political expediency are helping to perpetuate torture, war crimes and other human rights abuses around the world, Amnesty International said Thursday in its annual report.

“Too many perpetrators are getting away with some of the worst crimes known to humanity,” said Claudio Cordone, the interim secretary general of the organization.

Governments were among the worst of the offenders, according to the group’s 2010 report, which surveyed conditions in 159 countries last year. People were tortured in 111 nations, Amnesty International reported, as “human rights abusers enjoyed impunity for torture in at least 61 countries.”

The report sharply criticized some of the world’s largest and most powerful nations for not fully signing up to the International Criminal Court — notably the United States, China, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Russia.

So far, 111 nations have signed onto the court, leaving 81 non-signees, including 7 of the Group 0f 20 leading industrial powers. By refusing to join, Mr. Cordone said, “they undermine the court.”

Cases brought before the court, he added, are increasingly being “seen for what they are: serious crimes to be investigated and prosecuted, as opposed to political issues to be resolved through diplomatic channels.”

The Amnesty report applauded the court for issuing an arrest warrant for the Sudanese president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, charging him with war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Darfur region. It was the first warrant issued for a sitting president.

But the report said the refusal of the African Union to cooperate with the court on Darfur was “a stark example of governmental failure to put justice before politics.”

In addition to its criticism of governments, Amnesty also found fault with international rights agencies and institutions, pointedly mentioning the United Nations Human Rights Council’s “paralysis over Sri Lanka.”

The organization said the council in 2009 passed “a deeply flawed resolution” that had been undermined by “global politics and expediency.” The measure rejected calls for an inquiry into widely reported atrocities by the Sri Lankan military in its war against the secessionist Tamil Tigers. The resolution, Amnesty said, “actually commended the Sri Lankan government.”

“By the end of the year, despite further evidence of war crimes and other abuses, no one had been brought to justice,” Mr. Cordone said. “One would be hard pressed to imagine a more complete failure.”

The Human Rights Council’s so-called Goldstone Report calling for accountability for the bloody conflict in Gaza that ended in early 2009 “still needs to be heeded by Israel and Hamas,” Amnesty said. Its report reiterated that “Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups unlawfully killed and injured civilians.”

The Amnesty report cited specific abuses in most countries and every region, including the exploitation and abuse of millions of migrants in South Korea, Japan and Malaysia; the Pakistani government’s chronic denial of rights to millions of citizens living along the Afghan border; mass forced evictions in many countries in Africa; increasing domestic violence, sexual abuse and murders of women in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Jamaica; election violence and political murder in the Philippines; and “a sharp rise in racism, xenophobia and intolerance” in Europe and Central Asia.

Asia, as a region, performed especially poorly last year, according to the report.

“The theme of the overall report is a global justice gap, but in Asia it’s an accountability abyss,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s deputy program director for Asia. “Violations of all kinds go on with impunity.”

In China, the Internet, the media and religious affairs were tightly monitored and controlled by the authorities; human rights activists and defense attorneys were arrested, prosecuted and “subjected to enforced disappearances;” and “strike hard” campaigns led to mass arrests of Uighurs in the Xinjiang region in western China.

The hard-line regime in North Korea and the military junta in Myanmar both continued to stifle nearly all political dissent, the report said, principally through state security organs and control of the news media.

The government in Myanmar extended the house arrest of the opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and harassed members of her National League for Democracy. Ethnic minorities also were widely and brutally oppressed, notably the Rohingya people, and the junta continued to hold an estimated 2,200 political prisoners.



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