Amnesty International said the global situation for human rights deteriorated in 2015, with the systems designed to protect basic rights themselves under attack by governments.
In the group’s annual report released Wednesday, researchers highlighted the situation in Syria as the world’s most urgent crisis, particularly for refugees.
“We documented cases of airstrikes against schools, against hospitals and against civilian homes. Russia and Syria are targeting civilians and civilian objects, and that most definitely is a war crime,” said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty’s crisis response director.
Hassan recently visited the Turkish-Syrian border at Kilis, where 58,000 newly displaced refugees have massed, waiting to cross into Turkey. Ankara has refused to open the border.
“Europe has basically tried to make Turkey its border guard, and that is not working out," Hassan said. "The people who are at the Turkish border right now are absolutely desperate, and they’re resorting to using illegal smuggling routes. And we documented multiple cases where Turkish border guards had been firing live rounds on refugees.”
While Syria is at the forefront of the world’s conflicts, Amnesty Secretary General Salil Shetty said there is a broader trend of deteriorating human rights.
“The U.N. Security Council and the so-called international community continue to watch helplessly as Syria faces a complete meltdown," he said. "But it’s not just Syria. Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Burundi, North Korea are all in a precarious condition.”
Shetty warned that the systems designed to protect human rights are under attack.
“Countries that have signed up to the refugee convention are shamelessly flouting it in the face of millions fleeing war and persecution," he said. "Many African countries have clubbed together, threatening to walk out of the International Criminal Court. At the regional level, the European Human Rights regime is under threat.”
The Amnesty report highlights some successes in 2015, including the release of three Al Jazeera journalists detained in Egypt and the opening of an International Criminal Court investigation into the situation in the West Bank and Gaza.