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Amnesty Report Highlights Refugee Plight

  • Al Pessin

The annual report by Amnesty International cites the increasing number of refugees around the world, and the lack of support for them, as the key human rights issue for the past year. The London-based group also calls the Internet an important tool in fighting human rights abuses, and calls on governments to increase access to it.

Amnesty International reports that the number of refugees worldwide grew to 15 million last year, with millions more in displaced persons camps in their own countries. The crisis is particularly acute in Africa - in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Sudan and South Sudan.

But aside from the human rights violations that forced people to flee their homes, Amnesty also criticizes countries that receive refugees, and others around the world, for not doing enough to help.

The group's secretary general, Salil Shetty, spoke to VOA.

"National governments prefer to focus and prioritize on their national borders, their national security interests, rather than the interests of human security and human beings. Unfortunately, the international community, which should rise to protect these people, 12 million of whom are stateless, they are not rising to the occasion," said Shetty.

Map of executions across the world in 2012, according to Amnesty International.

Map of executions across the world in 2012, according to Amnesty International.

Amnesty also documented torture and repression in more than 100 countries, with political prisoners being held in 57.

But the group reports some positive news. It praises the global Arms Trade Treaty, which regulates trade in conventional weapons. And Salil Shetty says the rise of cellular technology is helping protect people's rights and expose abuses, partly through amateur videos.

“We have Twitter and all the social media moving at a very rapid pace, almost real-time information sharing. Of course, we have to validate a lot of the information, we can't take it for granted, but the fact is the rise of mobile phones and citizen activism and citizen journalism, I think, is a game changer," he said.

The use of cell phone cameras is producing more such videos, showing attacks on civilians in Syria as well as human rights violations elsewhere.

Amnesty International says the amateur reporters who shoot these videos couldn't prevent the attacks, but they can show them to the world in a way that was never possible before, which could deter future abuses.