‘Hate-filled’ narratives target minorities globally, says Amnesty International

Human rights group says Rohingya’s experience is emblematic of violent trend against vulnerable groups.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “‘Hate-filled’ narratives target minorities globally, says Amnesty International” was written by Ben Doherty, for theguardian.com on Thursday 22nd February 2018 05.01 UTC

The entrenched “apartheid” of the Rohingya people in Myanmar, which in 2017 erupted into a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign, is emblematic of a broader global trend of dog-whistling, violence, and discrimination against marginalised minorities, Amnesty International has said in its annual report.

Amnesty’s excoriating report paints a grim picture of the state of human rights globally, arguing that “hate-filled narratives by governments around the world” havegiven licence to bigotry and discrimination against already-vulnerable groups.

“The spectres 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 (Egyptian president) al-Sisi, (Philippines president) Duterte, (Venezuelan president) Maduro, Putin, Trump, and (Chinese president) Xi are callously undermining the rights of millions,” Amnesty International’s secretary-general Salil Shetty said.

“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.

“The feeble response to crimes against humanity and war crimes from Myanmar to Syria and Yemen underscored the lack of leadership on human rights. Governments are shamelessly turning the clock back on decades of hard-won protections.”

The Asia-Pacific region, Amnesty said, was dominated by a failure of governments to protect people’s rights, and in many cases, an active persecution of their own citizens.

The Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, which the UN has described as “textbook ethnic cleansing”, saw more than 650,000 Rohingya, most of them children, flee over Myanmar’s border into Bangladesh. They remain there in makeshift camps, with the looming monsoon rains and the cyclone season threatening an even more acute humanitarian crisis.

But the persecution of the Rohingya was a global failure, Amnesty argued: for decades the world had failed to address “the conditions that provide fertile ground for mass atrocity crimes”.

“The warning signs in Myanmar had long been visible: massive discrimination and segregation had become normalised within a regime that amounted to apartheid, and for long years the Rohingya people were routinely demonised and stripped of the basic conditions needed to live in dignity. The transformation of discrimination and demonisation into mass violence is tragically familiar, and its ruinous consequences cannot be easily undone.”

The Rohingya crisis faces an intractable future, with Bangladesh struggling to cope with the influx of people, no obvious third-country resettlement options, and a population too scarred by violence against them to consider returning.

“If the Rohingya refugees were forced to return to Myanmar, 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 that made them so vulnerable in the first place,” the report says.

The Amnesty report assesses the state of human rights across the globe, regionally, and for 159 individual countries and territories.

It also highlights ongoing atrocities in Syria’s civil war. In the last four days, bombing of civilian areas, including 13 hospitals, in Eastern Ghouta has killed 310 people, many of them children.

Pictures and images of dead and injured have shocked the world: UN secretary general Antonio Guterres described the besieged city as “hell on earth”.

“Government and allied forces, including Russia, carried out indiscriminate attacks and direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects using aerial and artillery bombing, including with chemical and other internationally banned weapons, killing and injuring hundreds,” Amnesty’s report says.

“Government forces maintained lengthy sieges on densely populated areas, restricting access to humanitarian and medical aid to thousands of civilians.”

While the Amnesty International report paints a bleak portrait of a world in which human rights regressed in 2017, Shetty argued the punitive approaches of governments had inspired many people to join long-standing struggles for rights, including: the campaign to allow women to drive in Saudi Arabia; the global #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and violence; India’s “Not in my name” protests against rising Islamophobia and lynchings of Muslims and Dalits; democracy marches in Zimbabwe; and successful marriage equality campaigns in countries such as Australia and Taiwan.

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