The new leader of Amnesty International says many world leaders, especially President Donald Trump, are rolling back gains made in respecting human rights, with the Trump administration's separation of families at U.S. borders "one of the worst atrocities" seen in a long time.
"The presidency of Donald Trump is a major challenge for the people of the U.S. and the people of the world," Kumi Naidoo told The Associated Press on Thursday, saying the psychological damage of the border separation policy alone could be long-lasting.
"Overall on human rights he has set us back ... and it should be no surprise that Donald Trump will be in my vision of activism and will be somebody who will receive quite close focus by Amnesty as a global movement."
With a background of activism against apartheid in his native South Africa and for environmental issues as a director of Greenpeace, Naidoo said he intends to make Amnesty "bigger, bolder and more inclusive." He began a four-year term at the helm of the London-based rights group this week.
"What I hope to do at Amnesty is to intensify our appetite for peaceful civil disobedience," he said. Although world leaders often ignore letters and meetings, he said that "when you mobilize thousands of people on their doorstep ... that seems to work much better."
He added: "We should not allow the shrinking democratic space to prevent us from having a more robust and more courageous activism that will include peacefully resisting unjust laws and breaking unjust laws where necessary."
Despite the recent setbacks for human rights, Naidoo said he is optimistic. Amnesty currently has a global membership of 7 million people and he said he would like to see that increase to 70 million, especially among younger people.
"Young people will not accept wisdom that they are the leaders of tomorrow, they will assert their leadership now," he said.