News / Africa

Amnesty International Releases Annual Report on Human Rights

Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration in Tunis (file photo)
Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration in Tunis (file photo)

Multimedia

Audio
  • Joe De Capua interview with Amnesty's Erwin van der Borght on Africa

Amnesty International says in its latest annual report that recent uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa show that freedom of expression lies at the heart of human rights.

2010 ended with a public uprising in Tunisia that forced that country’s longtime leader from power.  Then in the new year, similar public demonstrations prompted Egypt's autocratic president, Hosni Mubarak, to step down.

The rights group says in its annual report that freedom of expression is a powerful tool for change.  

Amnesty Middle East expert Philip Luther says the events in Egypt and Tunisia show the power of the people, whatever their background. 



“The people who have been taking to the streets have been a wide variety of people from across different divides.  They have included some of the most marginalized in society.  They have included women and they have included people of very different and varied political persuasions,” Luthar said.

More uprisings followed the events in Egypt and Tunisia, but not with the same outcomes.

In Libya, Moammar Gadhafi still rules, despite open rebellion in parts of the country and NATO air strikes against his forces.

Erwin van der Borght is Amnesty's International Propgram Director. To hear his interview with VOA's Joe De Capua on human rights in Africa, click below.

In China, authorities cracked down hard against possible unrest inspired by the uprisings in the Middle East.

Amnesty International's Tawanda Hondora says it is the same story in a number of sub-Saharan African countries.

"We see for example the situation in Uganda where the opposition is trying to demonstrate and orchestrate uprisings that are similar to what is happening in North Africa.  We also see similar situations happening in countries like Swaziland where there have been demonstrations, as well as Zimbabwe where there were demonstrations, but those were brutally suppressed as they were in Uganda," Hondora said.

Hondora says civil and political rights are under threat.

In Ivory Coast, violence after that country's disputed presidential election in November left hundreds dead and displaced an estimate one-million people.  The violence stemmed from former President Laurent Gbagbo's refusal to cede power to election winner Alassane Ouattara.

Elsewhere in Africa, a Nigerian civil rights group says at least 500 people died in election violence last month between Muslims and Christians.

Hondora says politicians are not doing enough to rein in their supporters. "The major problem in sub-Saharan Africa is that many governments are brutally suppressing protests that are being undertaken by the citizens and this is a violation of the constitution, it is also in violation of the African charter on Human and People’s Rights, where people have a right to demonstrate, where they have a right to express their views," Hondora said.

Amnesty says 2010 was not all bad news.

The group says authorities in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya halted forced evictions after a public outcry.  And in Europe, Amnesty cites progress in bringing to justice those responsible for crimes in the former Yugoslavia in  the 1990s.  

Amnesty also notes the release of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma.  The Nobel Peace Prize winner spent 15 of the past 21 years under house arrest.  But Amnesty says thousands of other political prisoners are still held there.

Luther says freedom of expression is the key to solving injustice. “There has been no clearer signal of the importance of freedom of expression than in the Middle East and North Africa where people have been rising up at the end of 2010 and then very much into 2011 to demand the right to freedom of expression, which is such a cornerstone right and which allows people to access all other rights because it allows them to demand them,” Luther said.

When free speech is respected, says Luther, people can bring about social and economic change as well as political revolution.

Amnesty’s annual report says there are unlawful restrictions on freedom of expression in 89 countries around the world.

It says torture and other ill-treatment were used in 98 countries in 2010 and the organization investigated unfair trials in 54 countries.


View Amnesty International Report 2011 in a larger map

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid