News / USA

Amnesty: Powerful Governments 'Stand Above the Law' on Human Rights

Amnesty International has released its 2010 report on global human rights abuses. It says on the whole it has been a landmark year for international justice - but barriers to justice have been built by powerful governments who shield allies and only act when it is politically expedient. Amnesty also says poverty and repression remain major problems around the world.

Speaking in London as Amnesty launched its report, interim Secretary General Claudio Cordone told VOA that international justice has moved forward. He says a number of landmark convictions have shown that impunity is on the wane.

"We're very encouraged by the trend for example in Latin America where we had three former heads of states brought to justice from Peru, Uruguay and Argentina," said Cordone.

But he also says powerful governments are limiting progress in international justice by acting only when it is politically expedient.

"We still see governments who hold themselves above the law, for example by not accepting the jurisdiction of the international criminal court," he said. "Among those are seven of the G20 countries. And also, we see governments shielding their political allies from international scrutiny."

The United States, China, and Russia are three of the seven countries that so far have not signed up to the International Criminal Court, or ICC.

Cordone says when the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al Bashir in 2009 it was a breakthrough. It showed, he says, that even sitting heads of state are not above the law.

But the African Union has not cooperated with the warrant - and this, he says, shows how governments are guilty of putting politics before justice.

Cordone says repression remains a major problem around the world. He spoke about the repression seen in Iran following the disputed outcome of the presidential election.

"People have been arbitrarily arrested; have been tortured even the government had to acknowledge that actually women were raped in custody," said Cordone. "We've had death sentences being passed and we've seen the violence in the streets against demonstrators and the situation is still dire for anyone who is a critic that opposes the government or that just wants to carry out proper human rights work."

Amnesty International's report found torture or other ill-treatment in over 100 countries, unfair trials in over fifty, and restrictions on free speech in almost 100 countries.

It says women and migrants remain particular targets of human rights abuses. And xenophobia has risen sharply in Europe.

Widney Brown, Amnesty's Senior Director of International Law and Policy, told VOA that human rights violations are driving and deepening poverty, especially in Africa.

"In Africa, where it's a very resource rich continent, and you have many companies including multi-national corporations and some government-owned, for instance from China, who are going in and extracting the natural resources often with devastating human rights consequences for the people living in the country or the area where the mining is being done," said Brown.

She says massed forced evictions across Africa and especially in Angola, Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria, are driving people further into poverty.

The Amnesty report documents human rights abuses in 159 countries.

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs