Amnesty International (AI) urged world governments to “ensure accountability for their actions” in their annual report on human rights violations in 159 countries, released Thursday.
Despite “a landmark year for international justice,” there are still millions living in a “justice gap,” said AI in its press release. Interim Secretary General Claudio Cordone highlighted this year’s successes and failures in securing human rights in the report’s foreword. He also addressed multiple challenges the world faced in upholding justice.
One reason Cordone considers 2009 “a watershed year” is because of how the international community is holding human rights abusers accountable.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on several charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In Asia, Kaing Guek Eav, an infamous commander of Cambodia’s former Khmer Rouge, was tried for crimes committed over 30 years ago.
These actions have sounded a clear warning to powerful political figures that they are not exempt from the law’s jurisdiction. AI says, “It [the report] reveals how it is harder now for perpetrators of the worst crimes to feel confident that they will escape justice.”
However, human rights abuses by state governments elsewhere remain unresolved. Last year, during the conflict between the Sri Lankan state military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE), war crimes were conducted on both sides, but the Sri Lankan government refused to recognize its responsibility. Despite the high number of casualties, no one has been brought to justice, Cordone says.
In China, police violently cracked down on peaceful Uyghur demonstrators in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. When the Uyghurs protested the Chinese regime’s discriminatory laws, the police used tear gas and fired shots into the crowd. After the incident, authorities restricted access to journalists and arrested nonviolent protesters, sentencing many to death after holding unfair trials. AI also reports that the communist regime continues its “severe and systematic 10-year campaign” against followers of the spiritual movement Falun Gong.
Savio Carvalho, director of AI’s Demand Dignity program, also urges the world to recognize poverty as a human rights violation. A government’s failure to ensure its people of their rights to food, shelter, and water is a fundamental denial of the right to live, he said.
Carvalho noted that despite the successes in human rights efforts this year, there is still a long way to go.