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Global response to atrocities by states and armed groups ‘shameful and ineffective’

25th February 2015, 17:23:41 UTC

Amnesty International today forecast that more civilians would be at risk of abuses by states and armed groups in 2015 unless effective action is taken at a global level.

In its Annual Report, The State of the World’s Human Rights 2014/2015, Amnesty International called for a collective response by world leaders to the changing nature of conflict, which, is creating a swiftly deteriorating humanitarian and refugee crisis.

The main findings of the report were:

War crimes and other violations of the ‘laws of war’ were carried out in at least 18 countries of the 160 studied Armed groups and militias committed abuses in at least 35 countries in 2014

The international community failed utterly to deal with conflicts in Syria, Nigeria, the Central African Republic, Gaza, South Sudan and Iraq

The use of the veto by UN Security Council permanent members meant there was no timely and concerted response to many atrocities

Western powers continued to deliver huge shipments of arms to Iraq, Israel, Russia, South Sudan and Syria despite the high likelihood that these weapons would be used against civilians

Governments reacted to security threats with draconian anti-terror laws, unjustified mass surveillance and dangerous encroachments on freedom of expression
2015 will see an escalation of the influence of brutal armed groups such as Boko Haram, IS and Al Shabaab and more of the world’s population will be forced to live under quasi-state control

This year will see a worsening humanitarian and refugee crisis as governments continue to block borders and the international community fails to provide assistance and protection. Last year the refugee crisis globally reached levels we have not seen since World War II.

“In 2014 the global response to atrocities by states and armed groups has been shameful and ineffective. Governments must stop pretending that the protection of civilians is beyond their power. It is their primary duty,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland. “Last year saw an increasing number of states ‘getting away with murder’ and other barbaric crimes while the world looked the other way.”

“In Syria for example, we have seen a conflict where hundreds of thousands have been killed and wounded while over 4 million refugees are living mostly in neighbouring countries. However, the United Nations Security Council has repeatedly failed to address this crisis, when countless lives could have been saved. This is more to do with the national interests of the permanent members of the UN’s Security Council than it has to do with protecting people.”

“The UN was established to promote peace and yet time and time again we see it fail to act on this mandate, allowing action to be stifled by certain powerful countries. We are calling on the permanent members of the UN’s Security Council to renounce their veto when crimes against humanity are taking place. At that point, the situation is so grave that it should transcend the national interests. The United States, Russia, China, France and the UK should act as part of the global community and put civilians first, no matter where they are from.”

“Governments are abandoning people in conflict and failing to deal with the humanitarian crises that these conflicts create.”

“It is abhorrent to see how wealthy countries’ efforts to keep people out take precedence over efforts to save lives. The global refugee crisis is likely to get worse, unless urgent measures are taken.”

“The global outlook on the state of human rights is bleak but there are solutions. World leaders can agree to take immediate and decisive action to avert greater calamity in 2015. Major powers can renounce their vetoes, countries can sign up to the Arms Trade Treaty, they can invest in search and rescue and humanitarian response, they can ensure war criminals are prosecuted. They can take consistent positions on violations at home and abroad, meting out the same response to political and economic allies as to others.”

“By so doing they would take us one step closer to a safer, freer world where everyone’s human rights are respected.”

Ireland and human rights

On Ireland, Amnesty International welcomed the recommendations of the Constitutional Convention on civil marriage for same-sex couples, removing the offence of blasphemy, and the incorporation of economic, social and cultural rights into the constitution.

The decision by the Government that the European Court of Human Rights review its 1978 judgement in Ireland v. United Kingdom regarding torture in the ‘Hooded Men’ case was a positive move towards redressing impunity. Our ratification of the 3rd Optional Protocol on the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child was also welcome.

However, abortion legislation continues to fail to comply with Ireland’s human rights obligations. The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act enacted in 2013 provides access to abortion on very narrow, restrictive grounds where there is a risk to life. The Act criminalises abortion in all other circumstances, including cases of rape, incest, serious risks to the health of the woman or girl, and fatal foetal impairment.