Panafrican News Agency

AI report says conflict contagious in face of perilously weak international responses in 2021

Banjul, Gambia (PANA) - Amnesty International said in its latest report that in 2021, new and unresolved conflicts erupted or persisted in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Libya, Myanmar and Yemen, with warring parties violating international human rights and humanitarian law.

In its 2021/2022 report made available to PANA here Tuesday, AI stated that, in their wake, civilians were made collateral damage, millions were displaced, thousands killed, hundreds subjected to sexual violence, and already fragile healthcare and economic systems were brought to the brink.

The global failure to address these multiplying conflicts provoked greater instability and devastation.

The ineffectiveness of international response to these crises was most evident with the paralysis at the UN Security Council. It failed to act on atrocities in Myanmar, human rights violations in Afghanistan, and war crimes in Syria.

This shameful inaction, continued paralysis of multilateral bodies and lack of accountability of powerful states helped pave the way for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has flagrantly violated international law.

“In far too few instances did the needed international response come; in far too few cases were justice and accountability provided. Instead, conflict expanded. Extending over time, its impacts worsened. The numbers and diversity of intervening parties rose. New theatres of conflict opened. New weapons were tested. More deaths and injury were exacted. Life was cheapened. Global stability was brought to the brink,” said Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

She added: “When we needed independent voices most, retrograde trend to stifle dissent flourished Global trends to stifle independent and critical voices gathered steam in 2021 as governments deployed a widening gamut of tools and tactics.”

She pointed out that human rights defenders, NGOs, media outlets and opposition leaders were the targets of unlawful detention, torture and enforced disappearance, many under the smokescreen of the pandemic.

She disclosed that at least 67 countries introduced new laws in 2021 to restrict freedom of expression, association or assembly. In the USA, at least 36 states introduced more than 80 pieces of draft legislation limiting freedom of assembly, whilst the UK government proposed the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would drastically curtail the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, including by expanding police powers.

Surreptitious digital technologies were further weaponized.

She also said in Russia, the government turned to facial recognition to undertake mass arrests of peaceful protesters and  in China, the authorities ordered internet service providers to sever access to websites that “endangered national security”, and blocked apps on which controversial topics such as Xinjiang and Hong Kong were discussed.

She said in Cuba, Eswatini, Iran, Myanmar, Niger, Senegal, South Sudan and Sudan, authorities resorted to internet shutdowns and disruptions to prevent people from sharing information about repression and organizing in response.

“Instead of providing room for discussion and debate so sorely needed on how best to meet the challenges of 2021, many states redoubled efforts to muzzle critical voices,” said Callamard.

She observed that “If those in power want to build back broken, we must stand up to betrayal. If in 2021 those in power lacked the ambition and imagination to tackle one of the gravest threats to humanity, the same cannot be said for the people they should have represented.”

“Protesters took to the streets in Colombia after the government decided to raise taxes even as people were struggling to feed their families during the pandemic.

In Russia, opposition rallies went ahead in the face of mass arbitrary arrests and prosecutions.

Indian farmers protested new laws that they said would hurt their livelihood. Youth and Indigenous activists around the world called out leaders for their failure to act on the climate crisis,” she recalled.

She noted that civil society organizations, including Amnesty International, successfully lobbied for the recognition of the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

According to her, innovative strategic litigation cases and criminal complaints were filed by NGOs against multinational companies including Nike, Patagonia and C&A for their complicity in forced labour in the Xinjiang region of China.

She also stated  that in a great example of cooperation, the Pegasus Project – a collaboration of more than 80 journalists, with technical support from Amnesty International – revealed that the spyware of Israel’s NSO Group had been used against heads of state, activists and journalists in Azerbaijan, Hungary, Morocco, Rwanda and Saudi Arabia.

“Despite promises and pledges to the contrary, at almost every turn, leaders and corporations opted for a nontransformative path, choosing to entrench rather than overturn the systemic inequalities behind the pandemic. Yet, people the world over have made it abundantly clear that a more just world, grounded in human rights, is what they want,” said Callamard.

“The palpable and persistent resistance offered by people’s movements the world over is a beacon of hope. Uncowed and undaunted, theirs is a clarion call for a more equal world. If governments won’t build back better – if they seemingly are intent on building back broken – then we are left with little option.

"We must fight their every attempt to muzzle our voices and we must stand up to their every betrayal. It is why, in the coming weeks, we are launching a global campaign of solidarity with people’s movements, a campaign demanding respect for the right to protest. We must build and harness global solidarity, even if our leaders won’t.”

-0-PANA MSS/RA 29March2022