Political rhetoric creates 'dangerous and divided world ' says Amnesty

By agency reporter
February 23, 2017

.Politicians using toxic rhetoric, reminiscent of the 1930s, are creating a dangerous and divided world, said Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world yesterday (22 February 2017).

The Annual Report, The State of the World's Human Rights, warns that an 'us v them' narrative of blame, hate and fear is undermining the very foundations of universal human rights and leaving the global response to mass atrocities and the refugee crisis perilously weak.

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said: "When language around 'taking our country back' and 'making America great again' is coupled with proposals to treat EU migrants like bargaining chips or to ban refugees on the grounds of religion, it fosters deep hatred and mistrust and sends a strong message that some people are entitled to human rights and others aren't.

"This toxic rhetoric being used by politicians around the world risks taking us into a dark age of human rights and could lead to profound consequences for all of us.

"Have we forgotten that human rights protections were created after the mass atrocities of the Second World War as a way of making sure that 'never again' actually meant 'never again'?"

The report, which delivers the most comprehensive analysis of the state of human rights around the world, covering 159 countries, shows how divisive fear-mongering is having an increasingly pervasive impact in our societies.

Governments have turned on refugees and migrants: often an easy target for scapegoating. The Annual Report documents how 36 countries violated international law by sending refugees back to a country where their rights were at risk.

"We are witnessing the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War and wealthy nations like the UK and the US have shown an appalling lack of leadership and responsibility," said Kate Allen. "History will judge us for this."

In the UK, where Nigel Farage infamously unveiled a poster which showed a queue of refugees and migrants with the slogan 'Breaking Point: The EU has failed us all', the Government has shirked its responsibility for the global refugee crisis, pushing thousands of vulnerable people into the hands of people smugglers. And its decision to prematurely close the 'Dubs Amendment' scheme to bring unaccompanied refugee children already in Europe to the UK is shameful.

There was a 57 per cent spike in reporting of hate crimes in the week immediately following the EU referendum in June.

The world faces a long list of crises with little political will to address them including Syria, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, Central America, Central African Republic, Burundi, Iraq, South Sudan and Sudan. Amnesty International's Annual Report documented war crimes committed in at least 23 countries in 2016.

The Annual Report highlights how world leaders rolling back human rights protections and pursuing narrow self-interest is replacing multilateralism with a more aggressive, confrontational world order.

Kate Allen said: "In December, Boris Johnson talked about how Britain 'can do good for the world...in the projection of our values and our priorities'. But these values have to be questioned when the UK Government continues to supply arms to Saudi Arabia, whose coalition forces are bombing hospitals and schools in Yemen, violating international human rights and humanitarian law and possibly committing war crimes.

"And the UK Government threatening to scrap the Human Rights Act has potentially dangerous consequences worldwide with leaders of repressive regimes increasingly emboldened to scrap established human rights protections themselves."

Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said: "A new world order where human rights are portrayed as a barrier to national interests makes the ability to tackle mass atrocities dangerously low, leaving the door open to abuses reminiscent of the darkest times of humanity.

"The international community has already responded with deafening silence after countless atrocities in 2016; a live stream of horror from Aleppo, thousands of people killed by the police in the Philippines' 'war on drugs', use of chemical weapons and hundreds of villages burned in Darfur. The big question in 2017 will be how far the world lets atrocities go before doing something about them."

Amnesty's Annual Report documents people killed for peacefully standing up for human rights in 22 countries in 2016. The organisation is calling for mass-mobilisation against cynical efforts to roll back long-established human rights.

Kate Allen said: "Never has the fight for human rights been more urgent and more necessary. It's inspiring to see so many people around the world taking up the fight; whether it's protesting on the streets or showing the compassion that their leaders are severely lacking. History has taught us that we cannot remain silent in the face of such ugly demonisation, we must stand strong together to demand a world where human dignity and equality for all are respected."

* Read Amnesty's Annual Report, The State of the World's Human Rights here

[Ekk/4]

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