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Amnesty International: increasing hatred and fear in the world and on the web. But some stand up in defence of human rights

From Trump’s “Muslim ban” to the “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya people in Myanmar along with Poland and France’s clampdown on freedom of assembly and fake news fuelled by politicians to manipulate public opinion. It’s a snapshot of the situation presented by Amnesty International in its 2017-2018 Report on the State of Human rights in the World. But while violations are increasing so does digital activism, with movements such as #MeToo and “Ni una menos”, denouncing violence and abuse.

In 2017 hate speech has poisoned public opinion and civil coexistence in many world Countries according to the findings of Amnesty International’s 2017-2018 Report released today (February 22) that analyses the situation of human rights in 159 world Countries. A veritable atlas of discrimination, abuses, repression of freedom not only against various brackets of vulnerable persons but also against organizations who stand in their defence.

“Throughout 2017, millions across the world experienced the bitter fruits of a rising politics of demonization”, states Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International in the preface. This hostile climate was fuelled by positions and measures taken by politicians and heads of state or government. The organization also denounces that politicians feed fake news to manipulate public opinion and, very often, they launch very strong attacks against supervising bodies. “Last year our world plunged into a crisis and important leaders proposed a nightmarish vision of a society blinded by hatred and fear. This has strengthened those who fuel intolerance but it has inspired even more people to seek a future of greater hope”, Shetty said.

The “rhetoric laden with hate, that threatens to normalize massive discrimination to the detriment of marginalized groups” began in 2017 with the adoption of the “Muslim ban” by the Trump administration, preventing people from some Muslim-majority Countries from entering the United States. It’s a “dangerous precedent” also for other governments, for the provision – according to Amnesty International – has contributed to legitimize attitudes and behaviours otherwise believed to be unconceivable. Moreover

We are witnessing the widespread, systematic denigration of all migrants and refugees, along a growth in xenophobia worldwide.

And this is happening upon the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights whose Art. 1 states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Shetty recalled  “the horrific military campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people in Myanmar” and other war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen.

“As regards the fight against impunity – remarked Antonio Marchesi, President of Amnesty International Italy – many governments are turning the clock back in time. While losing interest in the punishment of international crimes, they don’t renounce supplying weapons, used to indiscriminately hit civilians. This is also the case of Italy’s supply of weapons to Saudi Arabia, employed in the Yemeni conflict.” “It can be said that international crimes are neither punished nor prevented”, he said.

The Amnesty International report includes in the signs of regression in human rights implementation the crackdown in freedom of assembly and demonstrations in France and Poland, police killings of thousands of people – mostly of people from poor and marginalized groups –in Philippines during a violent “war on drugs”, along with limitations to freedom of the press.

According to the Report, the highest number of journalists were imprisoned in Turkey, Egypt and China, where Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo died as a result of lack of medical treatments after having been detained for two years for having peacefully expressed criticism against the government. Two figures encompass the scope of the attack against whoever spreads and collects information on human rights violations:

In 2017 at least 312 activists were killed, mostly in Latin America, and at least 262 journalists were imprisoned for carrying out their job (11 were killed Mexico).

Other violations mentioned in the Report involve basic social rights, with millions of people worldwide who find it increasingly hard to access essential services such as housing, food, drinking water, medical treatment and shelters. “The denial of these rights foments endless desperation. From Venezuela to Iran, we are witnessing a dramatic surge in social discontent.”, Shetty pointed out.

Addressing the situation of migrants and refugees, Amnesty International denounced that these groups of people are not only the target of hatred and hate crimes, they are also the victims of political measures directed at keeping them at a distance, denying them all forms of international protection.  

It is the case of Australia, where asylum seekers are detained in centres located in Papua New Guinea and in Nauru; or in Libya, where migrants are subjected to arbitrary detention, torture, extortion, trafficking of human beings, kidnapping and slavery; in France and Norway migrants are “deported” to their Countries of origin, such as Afghanistan.

To conclude

Hatred prevails in many Countries, and it also affects Italy.

Especially now, during the ongoing election campaign, noted the Organization. Our Country – said the Director General of Amnesty International Italy Gianni Rufini – “appears to incorporate all the negative dynamics that are being disseminated in the public opinion.” “In 2014 we were still proud of saving the lives of refugees at sea and we considered welcome and hospitality to refugees as an important value that most of population identified with.

Today Italy is imbued with hostility, racism, xenophobia, rejection of others, unjustified fear

Of anything that is different from us: not only migrants, also Roma people, women and poor people.”

But for Amnesty International this is not the first time that the world and Italy is facing difficult moments. And as it was in the past, changing the present situation requires “reacting as a civil society, as citizens.” An active, empowered citizenry can make a difference. For the international organization “small signs of hope” are found in the fact that the present situation has led more people to stand up for their rights, to be active in campaigns for justice and freedom. This makes us hope that it is possible to stop this drift and reverse the direction towards the recovery of rights.

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