Human Rights group Amnesty International has released its annual report for the year 2017-18 that documents the state of the world’s human rights.
The report covers 159 countries. It highlights the suffering endured by many, be it through conflict, displacement, discrimination or repression. It also highlights the strength and extent of the human rights movement and surveys the progress made in the safeguarding and securing of human rights.
Amnesty International stated in the report that the ‘hate-filled rhetoric’ by leaders was normalising discrimination against minorities. It said that the crisis in Myanmar and reported massacres of Rohingya Muslims is the consequence of a society encouraged to hate and a lack of global leadership on human rights.
Report in Detail
• Throughout 2017, millions across the world experienced the bitter fruits of a rising politics of demonization.
• More than 6,500 Rohingya Muslims are currently trapped on a strip of unclaimed land between Myanmar and Bangladesh.
• Risking death by sea or on foot, more than half a million Rohingya Muslims fled the destruction of their homes and persecution in the northern Rakhine state of Myanmar in August 2017 and sought refuge in neighbouring nations such as Bangladesh, resulting in the largest refugee crisis in the world.
• The report states that the warning signs in Myanmar had long been visible, massive discrimination and segregation had become normalised within a regime that amounted to apartheid and for long years the Rohingya people were routinely demonised and stripped of the basic conditions needed to live in dignity.
Don’t Take Human Rights for Granted
• The report states that as we enter 2018, the year in which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70, it is abundantly clear that none of us can take any of our human rights for granted.
• It states that the battle for human rights is never decisively won in any place or at any point in time.
• Yet in spite of all the challenges, it states that people have shown that their thirst for justice, dignity and equality will not be extinguished as they continue to find new and bold ways of expressing this.
• In 2017, the assaults on the basic values underpinning human rights, which recognize the dignity and equality of all people, were found to have assumed vast proportions.
Failure of Leaders
• Amnesty stated in its report that the international community had failed to respond robustly to the crimes against humanity and war crimes from Myanmar to Iraq, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
• It stated that the leaders of wealthy countries have continued to approach the global refugee crisis with a blend of evasion and outright callousness, regarding the refugees not as human beings with rights but as problems to be deflected.
• It stated that 2018 needs leaders prepared to tackle the big challenges - from refugees to protecting human rights defenders to the precarious nature of many peoples' access to basic services instead of simply deflecting responsibility through blame.
• It said that leaders in countries such as the United States, Russia and China were not standing up for civil liberties and instead were ‘callously undermining the rights of millions’.
• Amnesty described Trump’s move to ban people from several Muslim-majority countries in January last year as transparently hateful
• Most European leaders were also found to be unwilling to grapple with the big challenge of regulating migration safely and legally.
Standing up Together
• The report stated that the year 2017 demonstrated the enduring willingness of people to stand up for their rights and for the values they want to see in the world.
• In India, rising Islamophobia and a wave of lynchings of Muslims and Dalits provoked outrage and protest as people said: “Not in my name”.
• Globally, the #MeToo phenomenon drew enormous attention to the appalling extent of sexual abuse and harassment.
• The report however, noted that the cost of speaking out against injustice also continued to grow.
• The report reveals that avalanche of online abuse, particularly against women, and the incitement of hatred against minorities, drew weak and inconsistent responses from social media companies and scant action from governments.
• The impact of “fake news” as a tool for manipulating public opinion was also widely discussed throughout 2017.
• The report states that technological capabilities to blur the distinction between reality and fiction are only likely to grow in future, raising significant questions about people’s access to information.
• The report emphasises on the need to build a culture of solidarity and expanding our capacity for showing generosity towards others.
• It also calls upon everyone to assert their right to participate in building the societies to which they belong.
• Further, it states that the coming year provides a vital opportunity for a renewed commitment to the transformative idea of human rights.
Government’s Austerity Policies
• The report states that since the financial crisis of 2008, austerity has become a familiar term and experience for millions of people.
• Austerity, in which a government seeks to reduce a deficit in public finances mostly to reduce public debt, usually involves cuts to government spending, rise in taxes, which often hit the poorest hardest by raising prices of basic necessities such as food.
• Austerity is a human rights issue, as if affects people’s access to education, health, housing, social security and other economic and social rights.
• The report states that it also leads to abuses of civil and political rights, as governments respond to protests and other dissent in draconian ways or cut services that affect access to justice, such as legal aid.
• In 2017, widespread austerity measures were applied in countries from every region, particularly restricting people’s economic and social rights.
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Human Rights Violation in India
Following are some of the areas of Human Rights violation in India that have been highlighted in the Amnesty report:
Caste-Based Discrimination and Violence
• According to official statistics released in November, more than 40,000 crimes against Scheduled Castes were reported in 2016.
• Several incidents were reported of members of dominant castes attacking Dalits for accessing public and social spaces or for perceived caste transgressions.
• Activists said that at least 90 Dalits employed as manual scavengers died during the year while cleaning sewers, despite the practice being prohibited. Many of those killed were illegally employed by government agencies.
• In August, the Delhi state government said that people who employed manual scavengers would be prosecuted for manslaughter.
• According to statistics published in November, over 106,000 cases of violence against children were reported in 2016.
• In June, India ratified two key ILO conventions on child labour.
• Activists remained critical of amendments to child labour laws which allowed children to work in family enterprises.
• According to national survey data released in March, nearly 36% of children aged below five were underweight, and more than 38% were short for their age.
Communal and Ethnic Violence
• The report reveals that dozens of hate crimes against Muslims took place across the country in the last year.
• At least 10 Muslim men were lynched and many injured by vigilante cow protection groups. While some arrests were made, no convictions were reported.
• In September, the Supreme Court said that state governments were obligated to compensate victims of cow vigilante violence.
• A special investigation team set up in 2015 to reinvestigate closed cases related to the 1984 Sikh massacre closed 241 cases and filed charges in 12 others.
• In August, the Supreme Court set up a panel comprising two former judges to examine the decisions to close the cases.
Refugees’ and Migrants’ Rights
• The report states that an estimated 40,000 Rohingya people in India stood at the risk of mass expulsion. They included more than 16,000 who were recognized as refugees by UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.
• In August, the Home Ministry wrote to state governments asking them to identify ‘illegal immigrants’, including Rohingya.
• In September, the Ministry said that all Rohingya in India were ‘illegal immigrants’, and claimed to have evidence that some Rohingya had ties to terrorist organizations.
• In October, in response to a petition filed by two Rohingya refugees, the Supreme Court temporarily deferred expulsions.
• Statistics published in November showed that over 338,000 crimes against women were registered in 2016, including over 110,000 cases of violence by husbands and relatives.
• Responding to petitions in courts seeking to criminalize marital rape, the central government stated that doing so would ‘destabilize the institution of marriage’.
• In July, the Supreme Court banned the practice of triple talaq (Islamic instant divorce), declaring that it was arbitrary and unconstitutional.
• However, in other cases, court rulings undermined women’s autonomy.
• In August, the Supreme Court weakened a law enacted to protect women from violence in their marriages, by requiring that complaints be initially assessed by civil society ‘family welfare committees’.
• In October, the Supreme Court ruled that sexual intercourse by a man with his wife, if she was under 18, would amount to rape.
• Further, the courts also allowed some of the rape survivors to terminate pregnancies over 20 weeks.
• In August, the central government instructed states to set up permanent medical boards to decide such cases promptly.