JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Widespread opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine demonstrates the power of a united response to human rights abuses, and there are signs that power is shifting as people take to the streets to demonstrate their discontent in Iran, China and elsewhere Thursday, a leading rights group.
2022 saw a “litany of human rights crises,” but the year also brought new opportunities to strengthen protections against violations, Human Rights Watch said in its annual global report on human rights conditions in more than 100 countries and territories.
“After years of piecemeal and often half-hearted efforts on behalf of civilians at risk in places including Yemen, Afghanistan and South Sudan, the global mobilization around Ukraine reminds us of the extraordinary potential when governments realize their responsibility for human rights on a global scale. ” said the group’s acting chief executive Tirana Hassan in the foreword to the 712-page report.
“All governments should bring the same spirit of solidarity to the many human rights crises around the world, not just when it suits their interests,” she said.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a broad group of nations imposed sweeping sanctions, rallying in support of Kyiv as the UN Human Rights Council and International Criminal Court launched investigations into abuses, HRW said.
Countries must now ask themselves what might happen if they took such measures after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, or apply lessons learned elsewhere, such as Ethiopia, where two years of armed conflict have contributed to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, Hassan said.
“Governments and the UN have condemned mass killings, widespread sexual violence and looting, but they have done nothing else,” she said of the situation in Ethiopia, where Tigray forces signed an agreement with the government late last year in hopes of ending the conflict. .
The New York-based organization highlighted the demonstrations in Iran that erupted in mid-September when Mahsa Amini died after he was arrested by the country’s morality police for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code, as well as the protests in Sri Lanka that forced the government. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation and the democratic election of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil over far-right Jair Bolsonaro.
“Time and time again, brave people take extraordinary risks to take to the streets, even in places like Afghanistan and China, to stand up for their rights,” HRW Asia director Elaine Pearson told reporters at the launch of the report in Jakarta.
In China, Human Rights Watch said the increased focus by the United Nations and others on the treatment of Uyghurs and Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang region “put Beijing on the international defensive,” while domestic protests against the government’s “zero COVID” strategy included broader criticism of President Xi Jinping’s government -Pinging.
With many Western governments turning away from China in trade with India, Pearson admonished them not to ignore Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s own human rights record.
“India under Prime Minister Modi has also experienced very similar abuses, systematic discrimination against religious minorities, particularly Muslims, suppression of political dissent, use of technology to suppress free speech and consolidation of power.
At a later press conference in Beirut, HRW highlighted the economic crises in the Middle East and North Africa, which have affected people’s ability to meet their basic needs and have subsequently sparked social unrest and violence, sometimes followed by government repression.
“Outside the Gulf, almost every country in the region is suffering from some kind of major economic problem,” said Adam Coogle, referring to the growing currency crisis in Egypt and the fuel and electricity crises in Lebanon and Syria. In Jordan, fuel price hikes led to protests that turned violent.
One of the biggest humanitarian crises continues in Myanmar, where the military took power in February 2021 from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi and has since cracked down brutally on any dissent. The military leadership has since taken more than 17,000 political prisoners and killed more than 2,700 people, according to the Association for the Relief of Political Prisoners.
Human Rights Watch said peace attempts by Myanmar’s neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations had failed, and that the bloc had “exerted minimal pressure on Myanmar” apart from banning the country’s military leaders from high-level meetings.
He called on ASEAN to engage with exiled opposition groups and “increase pressure on Myanmar by joining international efforts to limit the junta’s foreign currency earnings and arms purchases”.
In Jakarta, Pearson noted that the only lasting solution to the Rohingya refugee situation would be to hold the Myanmar government accountable for their persecution and allow the Rohingya to return safely.
“Most Rohingya want to go home, but they want safety, they want equal treatment, they want their land back and they want the perpetrators of ethnic cleansing and genocide to be held accountable.”
HRW chose Indonesia, the current chair of ASEAN, as the location to launch its report in the hope that Jakarta would use the opportunity to push the group to hold Myanmar accountable for implementing its five-point peace process, Pearson said.
“We call on Indonesia to effectively use the ASEAN chairmanship to resolve the crisis in Myanmar,” she said. “The world’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shows what is possible when governments work together.”
Domestically, Pearson said Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s admission Wednesday of serious human rights abuses at home in recent decades and a promise to compensate victims were “significant” but only as a first step.
“What we need now is proper accountability for the victims of these abuses and a real commitment, going forward, to protect human rights.”
Rebellion reported from Bangkok. Abby Sewell contributed to this report from Beirut.