by the stormy present
Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 06:38:34 AM EST
Amnesty International's 2007 annual report is out.
Today far too many leaders are trampling freedom and trumpeting an ever-widening range of fears: fear of being swamped by migrants; fear of "the other" and of losing one's identity; fear of being blown up by terrorists; fear of "rogue states" with weapons of mass destruction.
Fear thrives on myopic and cowardly leadership. There are indeed many real causes of fear but the approach being taken by many world leaders is short-sighted, promulgating policies and strategies that erode the rule of law and human rights, increase inequalities, feed racism and xenophobia, divide and damage communities, and sow the seeds for violence and more conflict.
What, you were expecting good news?
A few relevant excerpts:
'War on terror'
Further evidence emerged of a systematic pattern of abuse by the USA and its allies in the context of the "war on terror", including secret detention, enforced disappearance, prolonged incommunicado and arbitrary detention, and torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. At the end of 2006, thousands of detainees continued to be held in US custody without charge or trial in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Despite several adverse judicial rulings, the US administration persisted in pursuing policies and practices inconsistent with human rights standards. The US Congress, despite some positive initiatives, gave its stamp of approval to human rights violations committed by the USA in the "war on terror" and turned bad executive policy into bad domestic law.
In sharp contrast to positive developments in Latin America, there was a continued failure to hold senior US government officials accountable for torture and ill-treatment of "war on terror" detainees, despite evidence that abuses had been systematic.
A shift in the balance of power in the US Congress as a result of the November mid-term elections raised the possibility of greater congressional oversight and investigation of executive actions, and of improved legislation.
Meanwhile, in Europe:
Issues of statehood, security and migration continued to be major preoccupations across the region.
Many countries remained a magnet for those attempting to escape poverty, violence or persecution. Changing migration patterns from Africa saw over 30,000 people arrive on the Canary Islands, with an unknown number of others feared lost on the journey in unsafe boats. However, European states continued to disregard the rights of refugees and migrants, adopting repressive approaches to irregular migration that included forcible detention and expulsion without access to fair and individualized asylum procedures. In the context of the "war on terror", governments also violated their international obligations by returning people to countries despite the risk that they faced serious human rights violations including torture.
Two further countries - Bulgaria and Romania - were set to join the European Union (EU) at the beginning of 2007. While enlargement continued to profile human rights as a prime symbol of candidates' readiness to join, the EU as a beacon "union of values" looked increasingly ambivalent. Further evidence emerged of the EU Council's reluctance to confront the USA in its conduct of the "war on terror" and its failure to "practice what you preach" in relation to migration. An institutional minimalist approach to human rights within the EU's borders, which saw the establishment of a Fundamental Human Rights Agency largely barred from addressing human rights abuses by member states, added to the erosion of credibility domestically and globally on human rights issues.
Racism and discrimination continued across the region. There was a failure of leadership in many countries to convincingly challenge racist and xenophobic ideas and ideologies, to implement comprehensive programmes to combat them, and to act with due diligence to prevent, investigate and prosecute racially motivated attacks. In some countries it was the authorities themselves that discriminated against minorities by failing to uphold their rights. Discrimination was frequently on grounds of identity and legal status - or lack of it - and led to barriers in access to a range of human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights.
Security and human rights
Further evidence emerged of complicity by Europe's governments in the US programme of renditions - an unlawful practice in which numerous men have been illegally detained and secretly flown to countries where they have suffered additional crimes, including torture and enforced disappearance. It became increasingly clear, including through inquiries actively pursued by the Council of Europe and the European Parliament, that many European governments had adopted a "see no evil, hear no evil" approach when it came to rendition flights using their territory.
Some were willing partners with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in facilitating abuses. Complicity by states such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Italy, Macedonia, Sweden and the UK ranged from acceptance and concealment of renditions, secret detentions and torture or other ill-treatment (and use of information gained from such treatment) to direct involvement in abductions and illegal transfers. There was evidence, furthermore, that security forces of Germany, Turkey and the UK had taken advantage of the situation by interrogating individuals who had been subjected to rendition.
The Europe & Central Asia regional breakdown is here, with country-specific reports.
I don't have a shred of time today to go through the regional breakdowns in any detail, so please consider this a collaborative effort and start highlighting things you feel strongly about in the comments.