Amnesty International report labels 2014 ‘devastating’ for human rights

Global rights organisation calls on governments to do more to support those fleeing violence

 Mayeli Hernandez who was forced to leave    Honduras as a 12-year-old due to increasing violence. Amnesty International governments paid lip-service to protecting civilians last year while “failing miserably”. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty

Mayeli Hernandez who was forced to leave Honduras as a 12-year-old due to increasing violence. Amnesty International governments paid lip-service to protecting civilians last year while “failing miserably”. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty

 

Last year was “devastating” for human rights across the world and the United Nations did too little to protect them, according to Amnesty International.

In its international report for 2014, published this morning, the global human rights organisation says governments paid lip-service to protecting civilians while “failing miserably”.

Governments also “denied” millions of people fleeing violence protection. In Europe there has been a systematic policy of keeping people, fleeing for their lives, out, while in the US last year almost 53,000 children were arrested – some as young a five - fleeing poverty and murderous gang warfare in central America.

This must change and it can, the report says.

The charity is calling on members of the UN Security Council to renounce their veto in votes on situations of mass atrocity. It is also calling on the international community to do more to support and accept people fleeing violence.

The report outlines the human rights situations in all 160 countries it investigates.

It describes the July assault on Gaza by Israel, in which 2,000 Palestinians were killed and where war crimes were committed, as being marked by “callous indifference”.

‘Horrific crimes’

Insufficient international attention was paid to “horrific crimes” committed by Boko Haram in Nigeria, the report says.

“In the Central African Republic more than 5,000 died in sectarian violence despite the presence of international forces. The torture, rape and mass murder barely made a showing on the world’s front pages. Yet again the majority of those who died were civilians.”

In Syria and Iraq “human savagery” has been meted out by armed groups, notably by the group calling itself Islamic State (IS). In Syria IS has carried out “public killings, amputations and floggings for what it considered transgressions of its version of Islamic law”, while in Iraq it conducts a “reign of terror”.

“Unlike many of those who perpetrate unlawful killings but seek to commit their crimes in secret, IS was brutally brazen about its actions.”

In South Sudan tens of thousands of civilians were killed and two million fled their homes during conflict between government and opposition forces.

The list, says the report, “barely begins to scratch the surface” of the devastating impact conflict has had on civilians in the past year. It would be “wrong” to suggest civilians could not be protected.

Code of conduct

“It is essential to confront violations against civilians and to bring to justice those responsible. One obvious and practical step is waiting to be taken. Amnesty International has welcomed the proposal, now backed by around 40 governments, for the UN Security Council to adopt a code of conduct agreeing to voluntarily refrain from using the veto in a way which would block Security Council action in situations of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“That would be an important first step and could save many lives.”

Amnesty also calls for further restriction on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, which would have saved many lives in Ukraine last year.

The report looks at other human rights abuses across the world, including repression of dissent across Africa, in Russia, in China and North Korea.

The continued struggles for women’s reproductive rights, in El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti, Chile, the Philippines, Poland, Malta and Ireland are highlighted.

On the United States, the report says US president Barack Obama acknowledged torture had been carried out in detention centres operated by the CIA after September 11th, but “accountability and remedy for the crimes under international law remained absent”.

It says 33 men and two women were executed in the US last year, the lowest number since 1994. At least 35 people across 18 states died after being struck by police Tasers. Most were unarmed and did not pose a serious threat when the Taser was deployed.