News / Middle East

    Amnesty Says UN Security Council 'Unfit for Purpose'

    UN Security Council meeting (file photo)UN Security Council meeting (file photo)
    x
    UN Security Council meeting (file photo)
    UN Security Council meeting (file photo)
    Selah Hennessy
    LONDON - "Failed leadership has gone global" -- according to Amnesty International's annual report on the state of human rights around the world. The United Nations Security Council is receiving the most focused criticism in the report that was published late Wednesday.

    Amnesty International describes 2011 as having been a tumultuous year.  On the plus side, it says, millions of people took to the streets to demand their rights -- and some secured victories.  Most notably, the report says, in the Middle East and North Africa, popular movements threatened or even swept away governments that had "ruled with an iron fist."

    But Amnesty says the hard work of the people was not matched by strong leadership at the national or international level.

    Amnesty's London-based senior director of International Law and Policy, Widney Brown, says politicians have repeatedly responded to protests with brutality.  And at an international level, she says alliances and financial interests have driven policy -- rather than human rights.

    "Governments are willing to promote it when the country that they are being critical of either has no power or has no strategic importance to them.  And at the same time are totally willing to bend the rules when it does," Brown said.

    What is more, the Amnesty report says, the U.N. Security Council has shown itself to be tired, out of step and "unfit for purpose."

    It says inaction over alleged abuses in Sri Lanka and Syria made the Security Council look redundant.

    "Our concern is that the U.N. Security Council is charged with protecting international peace and security and yet in a case like Syria, where civilians are clearly being targeted, they basically chose not to act and when they did finally act, it was quite weak," Brown said.

    China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States are permanent members of the Security Council.

    Brown says these countries are also major arms exporters, a situation that can create a conflict of financial interest.

    "Of the top six arms dealers in the world, five of those top six are permanent members of the Security Council.  And there is a certain irony in the fact that the governments charged with international peace and security in fact are major arms dealers," Brown said.

    Amnesty used the 2012 report to highlight the global arms trade and call for a strong global arms-trade treaty later this year.  The treaty is set to be negotiated at a global conference in New York during the month of July.

    Amnesty Arms Control Manager Brian Woods says if there is a risk that arms exported to another country could contribute to human-rights abuses, then those supplies should be stopped.  He says a global treaty is the only way to make that work.

    "Wherever we go and say look you should not have sent those arms to country 'X' or 'Y,' people will say, 'Oh yeah, but if we did not send them somebody else would.'  Governments say that to us, companies say it, so there is no way you can tackle this problem unless you have a level playing field at a pretty high level for all countries," Woods said.

    Amnesty International Report 2012 looks at the state of human rights in 155 countries and territories.

    You May Like

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora