News / Africa

Amnesty: Sudan's President Arrest Warrant is Landmark Victory

The human rights group, Amnesty International reports the past year has seen improvements in Africa.  However, in its annual report the organization says news from the continent is still mixed.    

Amnesty International says the International Criminal Court's 2009 arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity is a "landmark event" for human rights in Africa.  

The group's annual human rights report was released Thursday.  It notes increasing government accountability, decreasing use of the death penalty and improvements in health care all indicate positive developments for Africa.  

Amnesty's Africa program director Erwin van der Borght says increased local activism in affected communities has brought much of this change.  

"An important development always is the strong voice of human rights activists across the continent increasingly being heard, increasingly working together across borders and in joint solidarity in joint campaign actions," said van der Borght.

He says while positive steps have been taken, the report notes many African countries continue to abuse human rights.  Child soldiers, gender-based violence and post-election bloodshed remain problematic across the continent.  Additionally, van der Borght says the report focuses on the problem of Africa's widespread poverty.  

"The urbanization rate in Africa is among the highest in the world, so hundreds of thousands of people are living in informal settlements-no access to basic services such as water, health, sanitation-often at risk of forcibly being evicted," he said. "We have documented forced evictions, for example, in Kenya, in Angola, in Nigeria.  People lose their livelihood, they lose their belongings and then that drives them even deeper into poverty."

Van der Borght notes people living in poverty are at high risk for a series of human rights abuses.  

Amnesty's annual report highlights both the advances and shortfalls of governments around the world regarding civil, political and human rights.   

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