23 May 2007

What Does The Amnesty International Report Actually Say?

Excerpted from this year's Amnesty International Report:
Fear thrives on myopic and cowardly leadership. There are indeed many real causes of fear, but the approach being taken by many world leaders is short-sighted, promulgating policies and strategies that erode the rule of law and human rights, increase inequalities, feed racism and xenophobia, divide and damage communities, and sow the seeds for violence and more conflict.

The politics of fear has been made more complex by the emergence of armed groups and big business that commit or condone human rights abuses. Both - in different ways - challenge the power of governments in an increasingly borderless world. Weak governments and ineffective international institutions are unable to hold them accountable, leaving people vulnerable and afraid.

History shows that it is not through fear but through hope and optimism that progress is achieved. So, why do some leaders promote fear? Because it allows them to consolidate their own power, create false certainties and escape accountability.

The Howard government portrayed desperate asylum-seekers in leaky boats as a threat to Australia's national security and raised a false alarm of a refugee invasion. This contributed to its election victory in 2001. After the attacks of 11 September 2001, US President George W Bush invoked the fear of terrorism to enhance his executive power, without Congressional oversight or judicial scrutiny. President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan whipped up fear among his supporters and in the Arab world that the deployment of UN peacekeepers in Darfur would be a pretext for an Iraq-style, US-led invasion. Meanwhile, his armed forces and militia allies continued to kill, rape and plunder with impunity. President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe played on racial fears to push his own political agenda of grabbing land for his supporters...

The "war on terror" continued to claim lives and to be associated with enforced disappearances, particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In Afghanistan, the security situation in the south and south-east deteriorated rapidly. The spread of the insurgency in the country, coupled with lawlessness, led to increased social unrest. The escalating conflict resulted in the deaths and injuries of thousands of civilians. Serious breaches of international humanitarian law were committed by all parties to the conflict, including international and Afghan security forces, and the Taleban. The continuing inability of the international community and the Afghan government to ensure good governance and the rule of law added to the culture of impunity, further fuelling local resentments. Government administrators, teachers and human rights defenders, many of them women, faced threats and violent attacks, sometimes leading to death, by the Taleban and local power-holders. Pervasive poverty, food shortages and a lack of safe drinking water exacerbated by drought added to the suffering of people and internal displacement...

Asia and the Pacific remained alone in having no regional human rights mechanism, and on the ground improvements in human rights protections were patchy...

In Australia anti-terror legislation raised many concerns about the protection of human rights, and in India the debate continued about the introduction of a "war on terror" law...

Ten states from the Asia-Pacific region became members of the new UN Human Rights Council - Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea and Sri Lanka.
Worth noting here that Australia is apparently not a member, and that only the United States, the Marshall Islands, Palau, and Israel voted against the Council's creation, claiming that it would have too little power and that there were insufficient safeguards to prevent human rights-abusing nations from taking control.

This is from the Australia-specific section:
Violence against women and low rates of prosecution, and in remote communities a lack of support services for Indigenous women were serious concerns. New counter-terrorism measures posed a threat to human rights. Harsh new legislation against asylum-seekers was rejected. Hundreds of refugees remained in limbo under the Temporary Protection Visas system.

In May, a report by the Crown Prosecutor for Central Australia exposed numerous cases of sexual abuse and violence against women and children in remote Indigenous communities. The report revealed a lack of support services available for Indigenous women in remote communities and a lack of appropriate action by the authorities.

During a visit to Australia in August, the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing expressed concern at poor housing conditions in Indigenous communities.

In September an inquest found that a police officer was responsible for the death in custody of Mulrunji Domadgee, an Indigenous man from Palm Island, in 2004.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed concern about the high level of violence against women, and the low rates of prosecution and convictions in sexual assault cases. The Committee was also concerned about the continued violence and discrimination faced by women in Indigenous, refugee and migrant communities. There were concerns about the lack of appropriate action against the trafficking of women into Australia.

Joseph "Jack" Thomas, who was charged with a terrorism-related offence, was subjected to the country's first Control Order, resulting in restrictions on his movement and his freedom to associate and communicate with others.

The Attorney General rejected recommendations by the Security Legislation Review Committee, including those to remove from the Attorney General the power to proscribe organizations as "terrorist" and to make this a judicial process.

Australian citizen David Hicks entered his fifth year in detention at Guantánamo Bay. The Australian government continued to support trial by the US Military Commission, which fell below international standards.
Refugees and asylum-seekers

Forty-three asylum-seekers from the Indonesian province of Papua were recognized as refugees after arriving in Australia by boat in January. Under new legislation proposed by the government, all asylum-seekers without documentation arriving by sea would be processed in other locations in the Pacific Ocean, and those granted refugee status would be settled outside Australia. The bill was withdrawn by the Prime Minister due to lack of support.

In October, an inquiry by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission found that the Department of Immigration had not provided adequate care to an Iraqi woman after she had been held in an all-male compound in an immigration detention centre.

Approximately 1,100 refugees remained on three-year Temporary Protection Visas. In November the High Court ruled that refugees granted these visas were not entitled to further protection if, after three years, they were unable to prove the continued need for protection and if the government considered their country of origin to be safe.
Here's a good summary of the Amnesty report.

Here's an filthy asshole attracting flies.