Amnesty Intl slams war crimes, illegal refugee returns

International protection of human rights is “in danger” as war crimes and illegal refugee returns marred year 2015, says Amnesty International

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A refugee child waits behind a border fence at the Greek-Macedonian border, after additional passage restrictions imposed by Macedonian authorities left hundreds of them stranded near the village of Idomeni, Greece, February 23, 2016.

Amnesty International warned on Wednesday that at least 30 countries have illegally forced refugees to return and that governments of at least 19 countries have violated the “laws of war” in 2015 and called for action.

An annual report released for 2015 to 2016 slammed European countries for their “shameful response'' to the “worst refugee crisis since World War II” while basic freedoms and rights put in danger by short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns of governments.

“Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International said and added “not only are our rights under threat, so are the laws and the system that protect them.”

Shetty drew criticism on governments who “shamelessly” paint the protection of human rights as a threat to security, law and order or national ‘values’.

The documents show that 122 states tortured or otherwise ill-treated people in a worrying trend as many governments targeted and attacked activists, lawyers and other human rights advocates.

The countries have turned their backs on hundreds of asylum seekers and have opened way to their death due to thirst and hunger when human traffickers left thousands of people from Myanmar and Bangladesh adrift in the open seas.

The report excluded Germany stating that the crisis would be woeful without efforts of the German government but slammed other European countries which couldn’t manage to maintain the safety of refugees.

Especially Hungary, which sealed its borders to keep thousands of refugees who are fleeing from war and poverty out of the country, has been strongly criticised.

The secretary general called on for legal and dignified ways for 1.2 million refugees to reach safety.

"That Europe, which is the richest bloc in the world, is not able to take care of the basic rights of some of the most persecuted people in the world is shameful," Shetty said.

Europe has been shaken by a refugee crisis in 2015 as millions of refugees made their way to Europe as they were displaced from their homes.

Around half of the arrivals in Europe last year were from Syria, where Shetty described as “human-rights-free zone”.

The organisation condemned Russia and Syrian regime for the killings of thousands of civilians in Syria in indiscriminate air strikes. The rights group says Russia also blocked UN Security Council’s action on Syria with “callous moves” while Syrian regime leader using barrel bombs and other weaponry as well as enforcing sieges in civilian areas, blocking international aid -including basic food supplies- thus causing civilians to die from starvation.

Amnesty’s Shetty said violence of armed groups was used as an excuse to “take short cuts on human rights.”

"The human rights of civilians cannot be sacrificed under some vague notions of combating terrorism," Shetty said.

Violations from governments of some other Middle Eastern, African, American and Asian countries were also mentioned in the report. Discrimination against refugees and LGBT people, enforced disappearances, crackdown on human rights defenders and government critics, executions, discrimination, use of mass surveillance are some of the violations that the Amnesty documented.

People gather around the rubble of a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) near Maaret al-Numan, in Syria's northern province of Idlib, on February 15, 2016, after the building was hit by Russian air strikes.

The Israeli state, which illegally occupies Palestinian territories is blamed for collective punishment of 1.8 million Palestinians by maintaining a military blockade on Gaza, while Egypt, whose leader Abdel Fattah el Sisi came to power with a coup in 2013, is slammed for the arrest of thousands of critics of the regime.

Egyptian governments imposed a “ruthless crackdown” on regime critics, including peaceful ones in the name of national security, jailed hundreds without charge and trial, while sentencing hundreds to death.

Drawing attention to the tortured prisoners in Guantanamo military base of the US in Cuba, Amnesty said the continuing operation of the facility was an example of “grave consequences of US’ global war on terror”.

Amnesty's annual review, which includes reports from 160 countries and territories, said there had been some gains for human rights last year.

Three countries - Madagascar, Fiji and Suriname - abolished the death penalty in 2015, and Mongolia is set to do so in 2016.

TRTWorld and agencies