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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs