AI's Global Human Rights Report

Article excerpt

Governments and opposition groups on every continent violate human rights every day. That's the clear message of this year's annual report from Amnesty International, issued June 14, 2000. This means that human rights abuses aren't limited just to "areas of crisis" that receive heavy media attention, such as Kosovo, Chechnya, and East Timor. Abuses are widespread, from the United States to Peru to the Xinjiang region of China.

The silver lining in all this is that major crises can be avoided if the international community will address problems early. According to the report:

   None of the human rights tragedies of recent years were unpredictable or
   unavoidable. It is only through a serious collective commitment to the
   day-to-day protection of human rights for all, wherever they live and
   whoever they are, that future human rights crises can be prevented.... The
   warning signs for the massive crises that struck Burundi, Chechnya, East
   Timor and Kosovo in 1999 were all there for the world to see and for
   governments to take action on.

Therefore, to stop human rights abuses, nations need to condemn violations "by their allies as well as their foes."

Here are some cited specifics:

* Extrajudicial executions were carried out in thirty-eight countries.

* Thirty-one countries carried out state-sponsored executions.

* Prisoners awaited execution in fifty-five countries.

* People were reportedly tortured or treated badly by authorities in 132 countries.

* Torture or some other form of ill treatment led to deaths in eighty-one countries.

* People were held without bail or charge in sixty-three countries.

* Unfair trials were held in fifty-one countries.

* Sixty-one countries held prisoners of conscience.

* People "disappeared" or remained "disappeared" from previous years in thirty-seven countries.

* Armed opposition groups committed human rights abuses in forty-six countries.

Reviewing 1999 data and events, Amnesty International found violations in at least 144 countries--nearly two-thirds of the world's nations. The report cited Zimbabwe as one of the areas of greatest concern. In that southern African nation, "the human rights situation deteriorated" in 1999. Reports of human rights abuses last year in Zimbabwe included the first details of politically motivated torture since the late 1980s, including the widespread torture of criminal suspects by police and torture and death threats against independent journalists.

Singled out is Zimbabwe's treatment of women. A court ruling in 1999 in that country upheld a law assigning unmarried women the status of minors. The report also makes brief mention of widely reported attacks against Zimbabwe's white minority and cites Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's anti-gay "hate speech campaign" that led to harassment of homosexuals.

Regarding other countries, here is a sampling of Amnesty International allegations:

* Burundi: hundreds of unarmed civilians killed; "disappearances" on the rise; thousands detained without charge.

* China: repression of dissidents; repression of religious groups, including Christians and Falun Gong; repression of labor activists; excessive, arbitrary use of the death penalty; torture of criminal suspects; harsh prison conditions; "gross violations of human rights" in Tibet and the Xinjiang region.

* Iran: hundreds held without trial or charge after student demonstrations; at least 165 executions. …