The global response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine should act as a blueprint for addressing mass human rights violations, according to Amnesty International in its annual report released Tuesday. However, the organization accuses the West of ignoring other human rights violations.
Amnesty International says Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 unleashed "military destruction on a people and country at peace."
"Within months, civilian infrastructure had been destroyed, thousands killed and many more injured," the report says. "Russia's action accelerated a global energy crisis and helped weaken food production and distribution systems, leading to a global food crisis that continues to affect poorer nations and racialized people disproportionately."
A strong global response began within days of the invasion, according to Philip Luther, a research and advocacy director for Amnesty International, in an interview with VOA this week.
"We saw the U.N. General Assembly vote to condemn Russia's invasion. That was good. The International Criminal Court opened an investigation into war crimes and Western countries opened up their borders to Ukrainian refugees. For us, these measures were really a blueprint you could say for how to address mass human rights violations," Luther noted.
Russia denies committing atrocities or targeting civilians in Ukraine, despite widespread evidence documented by United Nations investigators and other human rights groups.
Amnesty International was widely criticized last year when it accused Ukrainian forces of endangering civilians by stationing its military in residential areas. Amnesty's director in Ukraine quit her post, accusing the organization of parroting Kremlin propaganda, while Ukraine's president said the group had tried to "shift the responsibility from the aggressor to the victim."
Amnesty said Tuesday it would continue to highlight human rights abuses by all sides.
"It is extremely clear to all of us that the violations committed by the Russian forces are far more important and lethal than anything else that the Ukrainian militaries may do. That being said, our mandate, our mission is to protect civilians. And for that reason, we will continue to expose violations committed by the Ukrainian military forces," Amnesty International Secretary-General Agnes Callamard told a press conference Tuesday in Paris.
Amnesty says the strong international response to Moscow's invasion exposes the double standards of many countries, which condemned Russia but fail to act on other human rights crises.
"Solidarity is owed to the Ukrainian people, but it is also owed to the people of Palestine, to the people of Eritrea, to the people of Myanmar. And that did not happen in 2022," Callamard told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
European nations have taken in about 8 million Ukrainian refugees since the invasion. Amnesty says policies toward other nationalities seeking asylum have hardened.
"They didn't exhibit the same or show the same treatment to those fleeing war and aggression in other places — war in Syria or in Afghanistan, or violence in Haiti when it came to the U.S.," Amnesty's Philip Luther told VOA.
2022 saw the outbreak of new wars, while existing conflicts became deadlier, according to the Amnesty report.
It highlights the war in Ethiopia, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people according to some estimates. "Much of this carnage was hidden from view, meted out in a largely invisible campaign of ethnic cleansing against Tigrayans in western Tigray," the report says.
Amnesty says 2022 was the deadliest year in a decade for Palestinians in the West Bank, with at least 151 people, including dozens of children, killed by Israeli forces. Israel claims it is targeting terrorists and says 23 of its citizens were killed in terror attacks last year.
Amnesty also highlights Myanmar's continuing oppression of the Karen and Karenni minorities, with hundreds killed and at least 150,000 displaced.
"The people of Haiti, Mali, Venezuela, Yemen, and many other places too, were plagued by armed conflicts or systemic violence and associated human rights violations," the report adds.
In Iran, anti-government protests erupted in September following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody. Amnesty says security forces fired live ammunition to crush the demonstrations, killing hundreds of men, women and children and injuring thousands more.
Amnesty accuses China of using coercion to silence international criticism of its human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights concluded in August that China had committed "serious human rights violations" against Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim communities, accusations Beijing denies.
"The U.N. Human Rights Council failed to order follow-up action because essentially China was allowed to use its strong-arm tactics to prevent further scrutiny or accountability," said Amnesty's Luther.
The report says human rights protections have advanced in some countries, in areas such as women's rights and the abolition of the death penalty. "The Central African Republic, Kazakhstan, Papua New Guinea and Sierra Leone all fully abolished the death penalty last year," Luther said.
2023 is the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — adopted by the United Nations in the wake of World War II. In its report, Amnesty says this year must be a turning point for upholding human rights.
"We've witnessed iconic acts of defiance, including Afghan women taking to the streets to protest Taliban rule and Iranian women posting videos of themselves cutting their hair in protest against the country's abusive and forced veiling laws," the report says.
"We can take some comfort in knowing that in the face of such repression, thousands of people still came together to write letters, sign petitions, and take to the streets. It should be a reminder to those in power that our rights to demand change, and to come together freely and collectively, cannot be taken away," it states.