Amnesty International global annual report 2016/17

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It is time we all stand up together and put a stop to the politics of demonisation which is creating a divided and dangerous world.

With the launch of its Annual Report, Amnesty International calls on people around the world to not let the rhetoric of fear, blame and hate erode the vison for an open society based on equality. If each individual takes a stand and acts to protect our human rights, together we can turn the tide.

2016 was the year of “us against them”, of populist leaders singling out groups of people as a threat to national interests. If more countries rollback our rights in the name of national security, the result could be a total collapse of the foundations of universal human rights.

Peaceful movements such as the International Women’s March, the pro-democracy protests in the Gambia and the Ayotzinapa student protests in Mexico should inspire us all to stand up for our freedoms.


Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General

Read the global annual report

Read the Amnesty International Ireland report 2017



© Amnesty International USA
© Pierre-Yves Brunaud / Picturetank

The state of the world: A global pushback against human rights

Seismic political shifts in 2016 exposed the potential of hateful rhetoric to unleash the dark side of human nature. Whether it is Trump (USA), Orban (Hungary), Modi (India), Erdogan (Turkey) or Duterte (the Philippines), more and more politicians call themselves anti-establishment and wield politics of demonization that hounds, scapegoats and dehumanizes entire groups of people to win the support of voters.

This rhetoric will have an increasingly dangerous impact on actual policy. In 2016, governments turned a blind eye to war crimes, pushed through deals that undermine the right to claim asylum, passed laws that violate free expression, incited murder of people simply because they use drugs, legitimized mass surveillance, and extended draconian police powers.

The more countries backtrack on fundamental human rights commitments at home, the less leadership we see on the world stage, with governments everywhere emboldened to join a global pushback against human rights.

This could have disastrous consequences given the already pitiful global response to mass atrocities in 2016, with the world standing by as events in Aleppo, Darfur and Yemen unfolded.

Meanwhile, several other countries carried out massive crackdowns, including Bahrain, Egypt, Ethiopia, the Philippines and Turkey. Other countries implemented intrusive security measures, such as prolonged emergency powers in France and unprecedented surveillance laws in the UK. Another feature of “strongman” politics was a rise in anti–feminist and -LGBTI rhetoric, such as efforts to roll back women’s rights in Poland that were met with massive protests.



war crimes were committed in at least 23 countries


countries illegally sent refugees back to a country where their rights were at risk


countries saw people killed for peacefully standing up for human rights

© Marie-Anne Ventoura – Amnesty International
© Amnesty International

Time to stand up for our rights

We cannot rely on governments to protect our freedoms, and so we have to stand up ourselves. We have to come together and resist the roll back of long-established human rights. We must fight against the deceitful narrative that we have to trade of our rights in exchange for prosperity and security.

We can find inspiration from those courageous activists of the past. In dark times, individuals have made a difference by taking a stand, be they civil rights activists in the USA, anti-apartheid activists in South Africa, or women’s rights and LGBTI movements around the world.

Small acts by individuals can make a real difference as we stand up to defend human rights. But global solidarity is crucial if we are to protect each other from those governments quick to portray dissent as a threat to national security and economic development.

Every letter, every visit, every word has strengthened us and reinforced our determination in this long but just struggle for freedom and democracy.

Yves Makwamba, activist from DRC who was released from prison in August 2016

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