A society 'encouraged to hate'
The atrocities against the Rohingyas in Myanmar and the subsequent crisis are the consequences of a society encouraged to hate and lack of global leadership on human rights, Amnesty International has said in a report titled "The State of the World's Human Rights".
“We saw the ultimate consequence of a society encouraged to hate, scapegoat and fear minorities laid bare in the horrific military campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people in Myanmar,” said AI Secretary General Salil Shetty.
The report, which covers 159 countries, also mentioned the issues of rights violations in Bangladesh, including enforced disappearances, crackdown on public debate and criticism, and failure in holding accountable armed groups that carried out the killings of secular bloggers.
The report, which was launched by the Amnesty International yesterday, said the world is reaping the terrifying consequences of hate-filled rhetoric of world leaders which threatens to normalise massive discrimination against marginalised groups globally.
Salil said the world last year was immersed in crises, with prominent leaders offering a “nightmarish vision of a society blinded by hatred and fear”. This emboldened those who promote bigotry, he added.
“The feeble response to crimes against humanity and war crimes from Myanmar to Iraq, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen underscored the lack of leadership on human rights. Governments are shamelessly turning the clock back on decades of hard-won protections.”
Security operations by Myanmar forces that began late August last year caused nearly 700,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh. Earlier waves of violence had previously driven over 300,000 other Rohingyas to Bangladesh from Myanmar where they have been facing persecution for decades.
A month after late August, at least 6,700 Rohingyas, including children, were killed, Doctors Without Borders said in a report in December.
Myanmar's security forces have been accused of rape and mass killings and burning of Rohingya houses. Though Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a repatriation deal in late November, the influx from Myanmar still continues.
“If the Rohingya refugees were forced to return to Myanmar [by Bangladesh], they would be at the mercy of the same military that drove them out and would continue to face the entrenched system of discrimination and segregation amounting to apartheid,” the report had said.
Severe restrictions imposed by Myanmar on aid groups working in Rakhine State worsened the suffering, it added.
“Those who remained in Myanmar continued to live under a regime amounting to apartheid in which their rights, including to equality before the law and freedom of movement, as well as access to health, education and work, were severely restricted,” the report added.
The Myanmar security forces were primarily responsible for the violence, but the civilian administration led by Aung San Suu Kyi failed to speak out or intervene.
The international community, including the UN Security Council, too failed to take effective action or send a clear message that there would be accountability for the military's crimes against humanity, AI report observed.
HUMAN RIGHTS IN BANGLADESH
Amnesty International's report said enforced disappearances were committed in Bangladesh, and that the victims often belonged to opposition political parties.
It further said the proposed Digital Security Act would place greater restrictions on the right to freedom of expression and impose heavier penalties.
In Bangladesh, the government intensified its crackdown on public debate and criticism, and media workers were harassed and prosecuted under draconian laws.
“The government failed to hold accountable armed groups that carried out a high-profile spate of killings of secular bloggers. Activists regularly received death threats, forcing some to leave the country,” it said.
REGRESSIVE POLICIES INSPIRE MOVEMENTS
The report also highlighted how leaders in various other countries also took hateful moves against the marginal communities and ignored human rights.
“The transparently hateful move by the US government in January to ban entry of people from several Muslim-majority countries set the scene for a year in which leaders took the politics of hate to its most dangerous conclusion,” said Salil Shetty.
“The specters of hatred and fear now loom large in world affairs, and we have few governments standing up for human rights in these disturbing times. Instead, leaders such as al-Sisi, Duterte, Maduro, Putin, Trump and Xi are callously undermining the rights of millions,” he said.
However, the report says regressive policies have inspired many people to join long-standing struggles, and detailed many important victories that human rights activists helped secure. These include lifting the total abortion ban in Chile, achieving a step towards marriage equality in Taiwan and securing a landmark victory against forced evictions in Abuja, Nigeria.
It mentioned the vast Women's March centered on the USA and with offshoots around the world which showcased the growing influence of new social movements, as did the #MeToo phenomenon and Latin America's “Ni Una Menos” – which denounced violence against women and girls.
“The indomitable spirit of the women leading powerful human rights movements reminds us that the desire for equality, dignity and justice will never be extinguished. There is a palpable sense that protest movements are on the rise globally. If governments stand against such movements, they will erode their legitimacy,” said Salil.
On a positive note, Salil said, “We are witnessing history in the making as people rise up and demand justice in greater numbers. If leaders fail to discern what is driving their people to protest, then this ultimately will be their own undoing. People have made it abundantly clear that they want human rights: the onus now is on governments to show that they are listening,” said Salil Shetty.